Construction began growing again in December following a three-month slowdown in the Republic, the latest figures show.
Ulster Bank’s construction purchasing managers’ index (PMI) shows that activity in commercial development and housebuilding increased last month, while work on public projects continued falling but at a slower pace than previously.
The pick-up in two of the industry’s three key sectors meant growth returned in December following a three-month slowdown in activity.
The index, which follows the sector’s performance every month, reached 52 in December, indicating that the industry grew during the month.
Ulster’s PMI takes 50 as its benchmark. Any reading above that figure means that the industry expanded on the previous month, while any result below that shows that it shrank. November’s reading was 48.2.
Simon Barry, chief economist for the Republic at Ulster Bank, welcomed the return to growth in building last month.
“Indeed, following a three-month sequence of falling activity the headline PMI index rose sharply last month to get back to above the 50 breakeven level for the first time since August,” he said
“Reduced Brexit uncertainty was cited as a source of support for the increase in overall activity at the end of 2019, while the improvement also reflected better performance across the three main sub-sectors.”
Mr Barry noted that housebuilding grew in December, supporting a view that Brexit fears were behind the slowdown over the previous three months.
“Meanwhile, commercial activity saw a further acceleration in its rate of expansion last month, in the process remaining the fastest-growing sub-sector,” he added.
Housing activity reached 51.8 in December, indicating that activity in that sector grew. Commercial activity, which includes building offices, shops and factories, was 53.6.
Civil engineering, mostly comprising work on State-funded projects such as roads, schools and hospitals, returned at 43.1, indicating that activity in this area slowed.
Builders were more confident about the future in December than they had been for six months, Ulster Bank said.