The value of construction projects starting on site in January was 8% lower than in January 2009, according to the latest Glenigan Index.
Project starts were delayed by snow, with activity in the non-residential sector being particularly weak.
"Glenigan forecasts a gradual recovery during the course of 2010 as private sector confidence grows. However, government spending cuts will remain a drag," said to Allan Wilen, economics director, Glenigan.
"The industry is bracing itself for further delays with expectations of more snow and sub-zero temperatures in February.”
Housing projects recovered during the autumn, peaking at 27% higher by value year on year in October 2009.
"The pick-up in project starts during the autumn indicates that housebuilders are preparing to capitalise on the anticipated modest improvement in market conditions and a gradual recovery in new residential projects is forecast over the course of this year," Wilen commented.
"Weak household earnings and consumer confidence, combined with limited mortgage availability are expected to restrict the pace of recovery in new house sales during 2010."
The Glenigan Residential Index for January 2010 was 74.4 versus a 2006 base of 100.
New non-residential projects continue to be particularly weak because of low confidence in the private commercial and industrial sectors.
The Glenigan Non-Residential Index for January 2010 was 88.1 compared with 102.3 for January 2009, a 14% fall.
There are tentative signs however that market conditions are now stabilising. A rise in government-funded work since April 2009 helped partially offset the impact of weak private sector investment up on the Non-Residential Index.
However, a more recent drop in health and community and amenity projects contributed to the fall in the January Index.
In contrast the flow of education projects has remained firm.
"The forecast increase in private sector projects will be offset by Government spending cuts, making for a slow and fragile recovery over the next two years," said Wilen.
Civil engineering projects slipped back in January following a surge in the autumn which saw the value of projects starts in November 2009 31% higher than November 2008, thanks to a surge in rail and road projects that has since lost momentum.
The Glenigan Civil Engineering Index for November 2009 was 113.7 compared with 82.1 in January 2010, just 2% higher than January 2009.