The value of the skills and services sent abroad by Northern Ireland companies has decreased, according to new figures.
A study of 2010 by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) said service exports dropped 17.4% that year to £409.6m.
Falling numbers of building firms meant that construction exports dropped by nearly 42% from £225.4m in 2009 to £131.2m.
The Exporting Northern Ireland Services Study (ENIS) said that fall was mainly due to the number of building firms with 10 or more staff dropping from 1,000 to 709.
Around £240m of the services were from the type of exports that were identified as having 'high potential'.
These included computer activities, market research, advertising and creative entertainment.
Such high potential exports showed growth of 6.5% on 2009 -that year had shown growth of just 0.3% on 2008.
Services exported by companies in the manufacturing sector fell by 15.3% (£6.9m) in 2010, from £45.1m to £38.2m.
Figures for 2011 are not yet available. Michael Hall, managing partner of business advisers Ernst -amp; Young in Belfast, said the decrease highlighted the problems facing Northern Ireland's export ambitions.
"Northern Ireland policy is focused on boosting exports, but this will be challenging without the weapon of a lower corporation tax rate.
"Consumers across the island continue to suffer from a decline in real income and this is affecting domestic businesses.''
He added: "Only when consumer spending, supported by a recovery in government and investment spending, begins to grow alongside exports will we see a stronger, sustainable recovery with employment growth.
"This underpins the importance of a strong domestic economy to compliment our international business base."