Manufacturing expanded slightly in October, a survey showed today, as firms took on more staff for only the third time in the past twelve months despite increased Covid-19 restrictions hitting orders. 

The AIB IHS Markit manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rose to 50.3 from September's reading of 50, the exact level that separates expansion from contraction. 

The index hit a 10-year low of 36 during April's lockdown of the economy before rebounding to 57.3 in July. The modest growth last month was still lower than flash readings for the euro zone as a whole and the UK. 

The Government has been tightening curbs to slow the spread of the virus since mid-September, when indoor restaurant and bar service was banned in Dublin. 

The same measure was rolled out across the country on October 5 before all non-essential retail was shut and restaurants limited to takeaway service from October 22. 

However, most manufacturing can continue under Level 5 restrictions – the highest level of constraint – that are due to stay in place until at least December 1. 

While new orders fell for the second month in a row, the rate of decline was modest and nowhere near as severe as the initial, stricter lockdown from March when 65% of firms reported lower new orders. Some 21% reported lower orders last month. 

The sub-index measuring employment rose to 50.8 from 49 in September, matching the previous bout of hiring in July and also equalling the long-run survey average, the survey's authors said. 

"The details of the October survey point to broadly stable, though subdued, business conditions in the sector," AIB's chief economist Oliver Mangan said. 

"Firms remain positive on the 12-month outlook, though levels of confidence continued to slip from their recent highs back in June," he added.