The rate at which construction in the UK has declined has eased.

That is according to the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply/Markit construction purchasing managers index, which discovered that 19 per cent of builders reported a rise in activity last month.

David Noble, chief executive at the institute, said that optimism was beginning to return to the construction sector.

"Whilst the current situation still looks very bleak, an upturn looks much closer than it did just a few months ago," he said.

"The market will need to improve substantially before we see the level of new builds return to pre-credit crunch levels."

He added that he believed unemployment levels are "still high" because of the amount of firms that had axed staff in July.

The contraction in the figure is the slowest in 16 months, although housing continued to perform poorly.

Earlier today, the Bank of England indicated it believed the worst of the recession would soon be over, stating that the "trough in output is close".