Around 70,000 people in Northern Ireland are now likely to be unemployed as an "alarming" jump in joblessness heralds an unwelcome new trend, an economist has said.
And tens of thousands more could face joining the dole queue as the end of the Government's furlough scheme looms.
Large numbers of firms here have put employees on furlough, so that while there is no work for them because of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, they can still get paid by the Government at 80% of their wages.
However, that scheme runs out at the end of October, and companies looking to make more than 100 staff redundant will have to let employees know if their jobs are at risk 90 days in advance of the end of October.
Meanwhile, economic development agency Invest NI has said it's looking at more schemes to support businesses in recovery mode.
And Finance Minister Conor Murphy yesterday said that £700m had been made available to help businesses survive, including a further extension of rates relief.
Figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) have shown the impact the coronavirus outbreak is having on the economy.
In April the unemployment claimant count, which includes those claiming Jobseeker's Allowance and Universal Credit primarily for being out of work, was 56,200 - or 6.1% of the workforce.
That was an increase of 26,500 since March, a monthly rise of 89% and the highest on record.
As lockdown set in, large numbers of businesses such as retailers, bars and restaurants closed their doors.
Many put their staff on the Government's furlough scheme. But other businesses shut up shop and let staff go, including those which were already in difficulty.
Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the true claimant count level was now more likely to be around 65,000 to 70,000, almost six weeks on from April 9 when Nisra recorded the data in yesterday's release.
And he said that he believed a previous claimant count peak of 7.3% - which was reached in the last recession in December 2012 - would be surpassed either this month or next.
Mr Ramsey said: "The pace and scale of the change in the labour market is nothing short of alarming and we are only at the start of the labour market deterioration."
He said that a significant portion of people who were on the furlough scheme at the minute were likely to be made redundant.
"The hospitality sector is arguably the most exposed. It faces a challenge on two fronts: the collapse in overseas visitor numbers, and the start of a new era of working from home.
"Both of these trends are expected to drastically reduce footfall. It should also be remembered that wages are another labour market pressure point not currently under the spotlight.
"For those who keep their jobs, escaping with pay freezes as opposed to outright wage cuts will represent a good outcome.
"Northern Ireland faces its biggest labour market challenge since the 1980s." During the last recession Invest NI developed a Jobs Fund to help companies expedite the creation of low-paid jobs to address soaring unemployment.
Asked if a similar fund could be established to address the present crisis, a spokeswoman said: "We are currently considering what support solutions will best help businesses on their road to recovery.
"Should we introduce any new schemes, these will be announced at the appropriate time."
Andrew Webb, chief economist at business advisory firm Grant Thornton, said soaring unemployment would have an unwelcome ripple effect on the entire economy.
"A weaker labour market reduces demand in the economy and reduces wider economic confidence," he said.