The number of firms in Ireland saying that they increased employment in the first three months of 2014 is the highest in five years, according to a new study.
The latest quarterly Business Monitor from InterTradeIreland also said that 80% of firms polled continue to report stable employment levels.
Results from the quarter also showed that the construction sector, one of the industries most affected by the downturn, is one of the sectors most likely to be recruiting.
There was also an increasing gap between exporters and non-exporters in terms of sales growth, with 52% of those selling cross-border or further afield reporting increased sales, in contrast with the 31% reported by firms which don't export.
The survey is based on the views of more than 750 business managers across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and tracks all-island economic indicators such as sales, employment, business outlook and other specific topical research areas on a quarter by quarter basis.
Aidan Gough, strategy and policy director at InterTradeIreland, said that although many firms are still cautious, the findings could help boost confidence in the wider economy.
He also emphasised the importance of the export market.
"The report for quarter one also shows that exporters have more advanced skills across the board," he said.