Britain's construction industry shrank for an eighth straight month in October and at its fastest level since records began in 1997, a survey has shown.
Housebuilding recorded the sharpest decline again, said the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS). The construction sector has been badly hit by the credit crunch and the downturn in the property market.
Leading building firms have seen big falls in their share prices.
Roy Ayliffe, director at CIPS, said: "There was no let-up in October for struggling constructors as the global economic and financial malaise continued to unnerve the sector.
"Concerned purchasing managers reported a new survey low in activity levels under the relentless onslaught of tightening credit conditions, plummeting confidence and high inflation."
Mr Ayliffe pointed out that with gloomy data from the manufacturing sector on Monday, he supported calls for an interest rate cut this week.
He said: "Though house building continued to bear the brunt of the global crisis, commercial activity is also feeling the pinch.
"On the back of fewer client enquiries, narrowing business opportunities and a higher failure rate for tenders, firms axed staff at the survey's fastest recorded rate.
"With no recovery in sight, constructors gave their first ever pessimistic prognosis on future sector performance in the eleven-and-a-half year history of the survey."