More than 1,300 construction workers joined the dole queue in Northern Ireland over the last three months, industry representatives have said.
The total number of builders, carpenters, electricians and other labourers laid off during the downturn is now approaching 28,000, according to the Construction Employers Federation (CEF).
And while there are signs Northern Ireland is emerging from recession, the CEF said the rate of job losses in its trade is actually increasing.
The 1,335 increase in those claiming unemployment benefit between November 2009 and January this year compares to a rise of only 365 over the previous six months.
And a ‘State of the Trade' survey by CEF showed that more than half of respondents expect their workload to be lower this year than last.
John Armstrong, managing director of the federation, said: “2009 has been one of the most difficult years on record for the local construction industry. Many companies have downsized considerably over the last twelve months.
“It is extremely concerning to think that layoffs will continue in 2010.
“The painful shockwaves of the collapse in construction activity are gradually being felt throughout the whole economy — far beyond our own sector.”
He called on local political leaders to take unprecedented and effective action to use the construction industry as the catalyst for economic recovery.
“Every £1 invested in construction generates £2.84 in economic activity,” he added.
“Pound for pound, the taxpayer could not get better value for money than this sort of investment.”
”The federation also acknowledged the important role the house building sector has to play in revitalising the local economy and urged lending institutions to support the sector by increasing mortgage availability, particularly for first time buyers.
“We also believe that the Northern Ireland Executive should take proactive steps to facilitate an increase in private house building,” Mr Armstrong added.