The number of member firms suffering a fall in work compared to last year hit 43% during the first quarter as just 16% saw workloads increase.
Detailed analysis shows any recovery is concentrated in the rail, water and power sectors as road work continues to suffer.
Contractors are also being squeezed by rising costs and falling tender prices as competition intensifies.
CECA director of external relations Alasdair Reisner said: “For an industry still seeking the light at the end of a very dark tunnel, there are few grounds for optimism in this survey.
“While signs of growth in rail and power are certainly welcome, the fact that the overwhelming balance of respondents reported continuing falls in workload is a real cause for concern.
“CECA is hopeful that the policies now being implemented by Infrastructure UK and others will support a return to growth in the civil engineering sector.
“However the results of this survey demonstrate that, for an industry being squeezed between rising costs and falling tender prices, the government has no time to lose in taking important measures to streamline procurement and encourage private sector investment.”