Activity in the Irish construction industry has continued to fall, new figures have indicated.
The number of new orders received by construction firms and their employment levels also dropped in February, according to the latest snapshot of the sector.
The Ulster Bank Construction Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) provides a seasonally adjusted index that tracks changes in the industry. A recorded figure above 50 indicates an increase in activity on the previous month, with below 50 signalling a contraction.
Total construction activity in February was rated as 45.3 - slightly lower than the 45.8 recorded in January.
While new orders and employment rates also fell, the drop was not as marked.
Ulster Bank economist John Fahey said: "The February reading of the Ulster Bank Construction PMI indicates that the business environment remains challenging for Irish construction firms.
"The latest survey result indicates that the pace of contraction was slightly stronger last month, registering 45.3 in February, versus a reading of 45.8 in January. From a sectoral perspective, all three principal sub sectors (i.e. housing, commercial activity, civil engineering) continued to experience contraction in activity levels.
"It is not surprising then that survey respondents remain in job shedding mode, although the pace of contraction in employment levels did ease for the third consecutive month, and the reading of 48.3 is moving nearer the breakeven level of 50.
"The construction sector has been severely hampered by the lack of new business opportunities. The new orders index, which is a key lead indicator, continued to contract in February.
"However, the rate of contraction in new orders slowed for the third month running and is now at its best level since March 2012, offering some slight encouragement that the dampening impact from the lack of new business is easing."