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Confidence in Irish construction sector 'highest since 2000'

In November, confidence within the Republic of Ireland's construction sector at its highest level since 2000, according to a report released on Monday (December 8th).The latest Construction Purchasing Managers Index from Ulster Bank registered a 63.5 in the last month, down from 64.9 in October, but still indicating a substantial increase in activity in this sector.In addition, business sentiment reached a new record high amid optimism surrounding the strengthening Irish economy, improving markedly during November and surpassing the previous high seen in April.Panellists from Ulster Bank suggested that the wider economy is expected to strengthen further during the next 12 months, which will create more opportunities for growth in the construction sector and other industries.Commenting on the report, Simon Barry, chief economist for the Republic of Ireland at the bank, said the new results bring the run of monthly activity gains to 15 as the sector's recovery continues to gain traction, despite seeing depressed levels during the downturn.He added: "Activity trends are being underpinned by substantial increases in new business flows, with companies attributing the latest expansion to general improvements in the construction market and stronger economic confidence."Indeed, overall optimism among Irish construction firms improved sharply in November in reaching a new record high for the survey, which began in June 2000. Almost three in four firms expect activity to increase over the coming year, reflecting perceptions that the broader economic environment is set to continue to improve."According to the report, all three sectors in construction experienced a rise in activity for the second month running. The sharpest rate of growth was seen in commercial projects, closely followed by housing, while the rate for civil engineering increased at its fastest rate for eight years.Many of the respondents that posted an increase in activity believed the boost was due to a rise in new business. The panellists believed that confidence in the wider economy and improvements in the construction sector had led to a rise in new orders.  Furthermore, the expectations of improving workloads, combined with a rise in new business, has led to constructions firms increasing staffing levels. 

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