Ireland’s service sector expanded strongly in the month of December to mark three and half years of unbroken growth, as the economy outpaced its European pears in 2015 for a second successive year.

The Investec Purchasing Managers’ Index of activity in services, which covers businesses from banks to hotels, slipped to 61.8 from November’s nine year high of 63.2.

However the index remains well above the 50 mark that denotes growth in activity. The last fall below 60 was in February 2014 when Ireland was emerging from a three-year international bailout.

The employment sub-index, which in November recorded a record high of 62.0, dropped to an eight-month low of 58.6 last month.

However it noted that increasing backlogs of work should support ongoing growth in employment in the sector through 2016.

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