The battered Irish construction sector has shown further signs of recovery with the number of new orders picking up pace last month, research has indicated.
The overall workforce also increased in February as companies expressed optimism about the year ahead, according to the Ulster Bank Construction Purchasing Managers Index (PMI).
The seasonally adjusted index, which tracks changes in the construction sector in the Republic of Ireland, has now registered increasing activity for six months in succession.
Simon Barry, chief economist for the Republic of Ireland at Ulster Bank, said: "The February results of the Ulster Bank Construction PMI point to further rises in Irish construction activity mid-way through the first quarter of 2014."
Mr Barry said the half-year period of growth indicated the recovery was becoming "increasingly well-established".
"The pick-up in activity is translating into a welcome rise in staffing levels, with the employment index also registering a sixth consecutive monthly expansion in February," he added.
"Looking ahead, near-term prospects for the sector are supported by further growth in new orders as firms reported that better market conditions are generating stronger pipelines of new business.
"Beyond the near-term, firms remain strongly optimistic about the sector's 12-month ahead outlook as sentiment last month remained close to the record high seen in December, buoyed by more positive signs in the wider economy."
On a sectoral basis, the sharpest expansion in activity was recorded on residential projects. An increase in commercial activity was also registered but civil engineering activity continued to fall at a sharp pace during the month.