Construction still 'under pressure'
Northern Ireland's construction sector remains under extreme pressure despite a marginal improvement in its downward trend, industry experts have said.
The latest RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) Construction Market Survey showed the downturn eased slightly in the first quarter of 2012.
But the study confirmed that the industry remains in the doldrums and continues to lag far behind improvements in business being reported in Britain.
Northern Ireland remains the region with by far the largest number of chartered surveyors reporting declining construction workloads.
RICS spokesman Jim Sammon said: "The challenges remain the same, a lack of private finance, delays in processing planning applications and the fact that public spending is under significant pressure.
"2012 will be an extremely challenging year, with construction work in Northern Ireland scarce and many local companies competing for work outside of Northern Ireland."
The survey, which measures the percentage shifts in surveyors reporting rises or falls in workloads, found a net balance of -43 in Northern Ireland, compared with -53 in the last quarter.
The latest figures showed Scotland register a -3 decline, while London and the South East saw a +19 rise in work in recent months.
With the figure for the UK as a whole found to be +8, the data shows a growing divergence between Northern Ireland and Britain.
All construction sub-sectors in Northern Ireland other than public housing experienced a fall in activity during the three-month period to March, the survey showed. Expectations for the construction sector also remain negative, with further falls in workloads, employment and profits expected.