Activity in the construction sector continued to improve last month.
The latest Ulster Bank's Construction PMI report has found civil engineering activity increased for the third month running and new business rose sharply amid stronger demand.
This increase led many firms to hire more staff in December.
Chief economist with Ulster Bank, Simon Barry, says while this is good news the construction sector is still struggling.
He said: "We still face pretty important challenges in the housing se ctor, so while it is very encouraging that housing is beginning to increase at a realatively rapid rate, it's increasing from a very low level.
"We had an all-time record low level of housing activity in 2013, and in 2014 we did see an increase which is encouraging.
"However, it is still falling short of the requirements that the economy and society faces."