Irish manufacturing activity increased for the 18th month in a row in November as exporters saw new orders flood in at the fastest rate in almost four years, a survey showed.

The Investec Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index stood at 56.2 in November, down from 56.6 a month earlier but comfortably above the 50 mark that indicates growth and not far short of the 15-year high of 57.3 in August.

While growth in new orders slowed for the third successive month after August’s peak, the sub-index measuring new export orders jumped to 59.3 from 54.8 in October to mark its highest reading since February 2011.

“This is a very welcome result given the softer trends emanating from the eurozone of late – with respondents crediting higher demand from the UK – helped by sterling strength – and Asia for this outturn,” said Investec Ireland chief economist Philip O’Sullivan.

“Another sign of confidence is the Employment index, which reveals a further sharp rise in hiring last month. More than twice as many firms are adding to headcounts than are cutting staffing levels.”