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Construction slump to last until 2012, says CIC

The slump in construction led to job losses in nearly half of Northern Ireland's professional services firms in the sector, according to a new report.

The Construction Industry Council (CIC) said the recession had hit construction professional services firms hard - and recovery was at least two years away.

Its report on the impact of the recession also said architects and quantity surveyors were hardest hit by a four-fold rise in redundancies in the UK for construction professionals between November 2007 and November 2009.

The report said 54% of firms had experienced a fall in their income from fees during the same period, while nearly 30% reduced working hours.

At the launch of the report today, Dr Lynda Martin, chair of the CIC Northern Ireland, said: "The last two years have been very challenging and difficult for Northern Ireland's construction professionals and the industry on the whole. The research conducted and evidence compiled for this report has been crucial in order for the industry to understand the problems currently hampering economic growth and to plan for a successful future."

She said the recession in construction would continue this year - though the fall in activity would not be as great as 2009.

There would be some modest growth in 2011, Dr Martin said, but she added: "The recovery process will be slow and 2012 employment is projected to still be nearly 11% below the 2008 peak."

Dr Martin also said firms were concerned about what the future had in store, even if recovery took hold.

"We have growing concerns regarding employment statistics and recruitment levels in the industry and how this may affect levels of quality and skill in the medium term.

"Results show that 27% of firms had resorted to shorter working hours, indicating that short-term prospects for recruitment are not promising.

"With at least one more year of graduate inflow, and possibly two, we expect very significant levels of graduate unemployment and the concern is they might abandon the industry altogether. In addition, as pension pots decline, many more professionals are being forced to prolong their careers, thus further reducing prospects for new intake into the sector.

"Ironically, this could lead to a skills shortage in the medium- term as when retirees finally leave the industry, graduates may have decided against a professional construction based career," said Dr Martin.

But Mark Way, the council's director of skills, also said the recession could create new trends in the industry.

He said: "We may see a rise of a new 'environmental consultant', helping clients to make informed decisions regarding renewable technologies appropriate for their businesses."