Project starts were down by a fifth in the first quarter of this year, according to economics unit Glenigan
The Glenigan Index was 21 per cent lower in the three months to the end of March 2013 than in the same period the previous year.
An increase in public sector work over this period was far outweighed by the decline in private sector projects.
Retail was the worst performing sector with the value of starts cut by half. Industrial starts were down 42 per cent.
The residential sector also performed badly, according to Glenigan. Starts for private housing projects fell by 24 per cent in the three months to March and social housing starts were down 48 per cent in the same period.
Affordable housing registrations more than doubled from 1,373 in February 2012 to 2,986 homes in February 2013.
Glenigan economist Andrew Whiffin said: ‘The poor start to the year continued in March as the rate of decline in starts quickened.
‘Private housing, industrial and retail starts all saw the rate of decline accelerate, pointing to faltering investor confidence.
‘The fall in private housing starts is particularly disappointing. However, the additional measures announced in last month’s Budget should go some way to stimulating construction activity in the private housing sector and we do expect some improvement as 2013 progresses.’
The residential index fall came despite National House-Building Council data showing affordable housing registrations more than doubled from 1,373 in February 2012 to 2,986 homes in February 2013.