Construction output in Northern Ireland sank to a 14-year nadir in the last quarter of 2013, an industry body has said.
And those firms which are getting work are having to find it outside Northern Ireland, the Construction Employers Federation said.
The CEF spoke as the quarterly construction bulletin showed output was down nearly 8% between October and December 2013, compared to the same period a year earlier.
It had even slumped by 3.7% on the third quarter of 2013 – and 2013 output of £2bn was down 42% on 2007.
CEF managing director John Armstrong said that when the effect of inflation was discounted, the end of last year marked the lowest quarterly output for the building trade since 2000.
Mr Armstrong said: "The figures for quarter four are disappointing news for the industry and run contrary to more positive signals we have seen in recent months.
"For example, in the second half of 2013, employee jobs in the industry increased for two consecutive quarters for the first time since 2007 and the CEF state of trade survey for quarter four indicated that 42% of companies were operating at full or almost full capacity."
The CEF said the Northern Ireland economy was around £1.5bn poorer per year as a result of the flagging performance– and that big companies were still relying on work outside Northern Ireland.
"Approximately 60% of the turnover of the top 20 locally based contractors was generated in Great Britain in the fourth quarter," added Armstrong.
"For the top five contractors this figure was closer to 90%.
"Locally, many contractors are still waiting to see the recovery materialise.
"The industry wants to see an increase in activity on the ground in Northern Ireland but is concerned that the Government and the banks are not facilitating this."