Up to 1,000 jobs could be lost in Northern Ireland's small business sector if insurance premiums keep escalating.

A survey of 375 small businesses in Northern Ireland conducted by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) found that 17% said they would be forced to close their businesses if insurance premiums continued to rise substantially.

The survey found that the average insurance premium had increased by 58%, from £10,312 in 2001 to £16,345 in 2002, but more than a quarter of respondents saw increases of more than 100%.

FSB Northern Ireland policy chairman Wilfred Mitchell said that the FSB deals daily with businesses that cannot access insurance at all.

"We also have knowledge that many are operating without adequate cover, particularly in the construction sector," he said.