Ireland’s manufacturing sector growth inched up from an 18-month low in September as output fell, but new orders rose slightly, a survey showed on Thursday.

After growing by over 5 per cent in 2014, Ireland’s economy is set to be the best performing in Europe again this year, while manufacturing has expanded for 28 successive months, according to the Investec Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index, a composite indicator designed to provide an overall view of activity in the manufacturing sector.

However, while the index remained at the 53.8 level, which is comfortably above the 50 mark that denotes growth, it is at its second lowest level since February last year, after August’s indice rating of 53.6.

While the new orders element of the index increased to 55.3 from 55.1, with most of the growth from export, manufacturing output fell slightly.

Philip O’Sullivan, the chief economist of Investec Ireland, said there were signs that demand in Ireland and in some key trading partners would lift the index before the end of the year.

“Notwithstanding the troubled signs in a number of emerging markets and uncertainty around central bank actions in Ireland’s key non-Eurozone trading partners, we continue to view the sector as having more tailwinds than headwinds,” he said.

Meanwhile, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits in Ireland fell by 3,700 to a seasonally adjusted 337,300 in September, the central statistics office said on Thursday.

The number is down from a 2010 peak of 450,000 and the unemployment rate has fallen from a peak of over 15 per cent in early 2012 to 9.4 per cent in September.

•Ireland will hold a bond auction next week, the only sale scheduled for the final quarter, the country’s debt agency said yesterday.

Ireland is already fully funded for the rest of the year and has raised €12 billion of an indicated €12 billion-€15 billion needed to fund itself through to the end of 2016, much of it at record low yields.

The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) will hold the auction on October 8 and announce the details of it on Monday. The NTMA also said it will not hold any auctions of treasury bills for the second quarter in a row.