By Jonathan Davies

Growth in the eurozone's economy picked up speed in March, hitting an 11-month high.

The Markit eurozone Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rose to 54.0 in March, up from 53.3 in February. Any figure above 50 indicates growth.

It was the highest score seen in 11 months, and the joint highest for four years.

It was driven by growth in Germany, Italy and Spain, whilst Ireland remained strong despite falling to a two-month low.

Germany and Italy both hit eight-month highs of 55.4 and 52.4, respectively. Spain rose to its best score in two months at 56.9. And Ireland fell to a nine-month low of 59.8.

The expansion of economic activity in March was evenly spread across the manufacturing and service sectors. Manufacturing production rose at the fastest pace since May 2014, while service sector activity increased at the sharpest rate for eight months.

Growth of new business in the euro area likewise accelerated in March, hitting a near four-year record. Strengthening inflows of new work tested the capacity of a number of companies, leading to a moderate accumulation of backlogs of work for the second month running and further job creation.

Employment rose at the quickest pace since August 2011, with continued job growth registered in Germany, Italy, Spain and Ireland. Meanwhile, France saw a slight gain in workforce numbers following losses in each of the prior 16 months.

Chris Williamson, Chief Economist at Markit said: “Whether the eurozone economy has achieved escape velocity to enjoy a return to a strong and sustainable recovery remains uncertain, but the region is certainly seeing its best growth momentum since 2011.

“With the ECB’s policy of quantitative easing also set to provide a boost to the nascent recovery in coming months, the economic outlook is therefore brightening as we expect to see more upward revisions to growth forecasts for the year.

“An ongoing recovery is no one-way bet, however, with the Greek crisis remaining a critical threat to stability in the region.”