Jobs were lost at private businesses in Northern Ireland at their fastest rate for more than a year last month, it has been revealed.
Around a fifth of firms surveyed by Ulster Bank said they had shed staff in August because of declining levels of new business.
Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank chief economist for Northern Ireland, said: "Overall, new orders have been falling for the last 33 months in a row and not surprisingly this has led firms to reduce their staffing levels."
He added: "The pace of job losses has accelerated in recent months, with the August survey reporting the sharpest fall in employment levels since April 2009.
"Indeed, the rate of decline was markedly higher than any other UK region, a trend that has been apparent over the last 12 months."
The latest reduction stretches the current period of business decline to nine months. August's figures - with around 20 firms reporting reduced numbers of employees - contrasted with growth in the wider UK economy.
Construction firms and trade unionists are among those pressing for more Government building orders to kickstart the economy.
A trade union leader warned that Conservative cuts will leave Northern Ireland deep in depression.
Peter Bunting, Irish Congress of Trade Unions assistant general secretary, said the coming austerity programme risked plunging the economy deeper into trouble.
Chancellor George Osborne has signalled a renewed crackdown on the "out-of-control" welfare budget, announcing that further reductions of £4 billion would be made this autumn's coming spending review.