The number of recruits needed by the industry over the next four years has been halved by the downturn, according to data released on Wednesday.

The Construction Skills Network (CSN), which assesses how many recruits are needed to satisfy growth, said this had fallen from the previous average of 88,000 a year to 42,000 between 2009 and 2013.

This means that the industry will need 184,000 fewer recruits than was forecast at the end of last year.

The data is usually published every February; however, the figures were recalculated in order to provide an interim indication of the credit crunch’s impact on construction’s skills needs.

Sandra Lilley, manager of the CSN, said: “The economic climate provides challenges to every business sector, and construction is no different.”

However, training body ConstructionSkills has urged employers not to stop training recruits. The body’s 2020 Vision report says the industry may be worth £109bn by 2020; the sector is expected to expand by 0.7% a year between 2009 and 2013.

Infrastructure is expected to be the strongest sector, with annual average growth of 6.5%.