Over 22,000 construction and engineering jobs could be lost in Northern Ireland next year if economic conditions don't improve, industry representatives warned today.
Around 4,000 building jobs have already fallen victim to the credit crunch in the last 12 months, according the Construction of Employers' Federation.
A survey of housebuilders commissioned by CEF estimated that between 4,000 to 5,000 more jobs in their sector could go next on the year while civil engineering firms predicted a staggering 18,000 redundancies in 2009.
The gloomy forecasts are based on the ongoing slowdown in the housing market and the prospect of fewer major infrastructure developments being undertaken by the government in the coming 12 months.
John Armstrong CEF managing director said the situation was at crisis point.
"Our survey shows that thousands of jobs have been lost, more are under threat and that the industry is planning to cut back on recruitment of apprentices, which will impact on the industry even further when recovery comes," he said.
"We urge the Executive to formulate a programme to encourage first-time buyers, stimulate socially-affordable housing projects and accelerate procurement of ISNI (Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland) projects.
"This sector has been a major driver of growth over the past decade, to let it collapse now would take a generation to recover."
The CEF is the only certified employers organisation for the construction contracting industry based in Northern Ireland.
It has a membership of approximately 1,300 companies across all sectors of the industry from civil engineering to general construction, house building and maintenance and repair companies.
Federation member companies account for just over 72% of Northern Ireland's total construction output.