Northern Ireland has more job losses ahead of it than behind as it faces into its worst recession in a century, a leading economist has warned.
A report by the Government found there had been a record-breaking 9,600 redundancies here in the past 12 months.
As rising coronavirus infections resulted in further restrictions imposed by the Executive, October became the worst month of the year for redundancies, with 1,220 confirmed and 820 proposed.
A further 710 were proposed up to November 6, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency's labour market report showed.
Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said redundancies would have been much steeper without the jobs retention scheme, which he likened to an "anaesthetic".
Mr Ramsey previously projected a 15% slump in the local economy this year, although it was already in recession by the end of last year.
At one point the jobs retention scheme was keeping 250,000 local people in contracts of employment, even though they were unable to work because of the pandemic and lockdown.
The scheme, also known as furlough, was due to expire at the end of October but has been extended until the end of March.
However, the 9,600 redundancies are double the number for last year.
Mr Ramsey said that an announcement last week of 700 job losses at the Larne plant of US-owned generator manufacturer Caterpillar reflected the vulnerability of the local economy and its long-term lack of competitiveness and productivity.
"The economy already had a range of underlying (economic) health conditions," he said.
"Whenever all the painkillers and medication finally wear off, the local economy will be confronted with this competitiveness and productivity challenge once again.
"Many firms and sectors, for example ICT, pharma and cybersecurity, are ahead of their own competitors and are increasing their staffing levels.
"Unfortunately, their gains are set to be outweighed by job losses elsewhere, notably within the hospitality sector.
"In the meantime, we have more job losses ahead of us than we have behind us.
"The labour market will eventually have to catch up with Northern Ireland's deepest recession in a century."
Northern Ireland has the lowest employment and unemployment rates and the highest economic inactivity rate of all the UK regions.
The report showed that economic inactivity - the proportion of people aged 16 to 64 who were not working and not seeking or available to work - fell slightly over the quarter.
However, it increased by 0.9 percentage points over the year to hit 26.8%.
The youth unemployment rate for July to September was 11.5%.
The unemployment rate increased significantly over the quarter and year, mostly affecting those under 35, and reached 3.6% from July to September.
In October the number of people unemployed was 60,200, which was down 0.7% from the previous month's revised figure.
However, it was the sixth month that the claimant count was above 60,000.
The figures showed that while the employment rate decreased over the quarter and the year, there had been some recovery in the total number of hours worked across the economy, increasing by 11% over the most recent quarter after the record fall of 19% between January-March and April-June.
The total number of hours worked per week during July-September, meanwhile, remained 11% below the total at the beginning of the year.
The proportion of people aged 16 to 64 in work - the employment rate - decreased over the quarter by 0.5 percentage points and over the year by 1.7 percentage points to 70.5%.
I've set up my own business now but it was traumatic when I was made redundant from my job in marketing. Back in April I had been put on furlough as everything stopped overnight for the cruise fit-out company I'd been working for.
"We all knew redundancy was coming but we didn't when. There was uncertainty of being on furlough but I did take the first eight weeks of it as a bit of headspace and declutter time.
"Yet when redundancy came at the end of July, it was still a shock. But really, in a 30 year career including banking communications, I was very, very lucky that I'd never been through it before. In 2008/9 I could see redundancy coming but I made the move before it came.
"The company I was working for up until the pandemic had been on the crest of a wave, with their projects and growth. Looking back on nearly 30 years of work Christmas parties, I've never been to a party that had a bigger buzz than our Christmas party of 2019.
"But less than 12 weeks later, the rug was pulled from under us and the company had gone from aiming for a £100m turnover to no work.
"I used the time on furlough to upskill and think about what I wanted to do. It's a very hard thing to go from a security of a salary to setting up your own business. So furlough was ideal for that opportunity. I had time to set up a website, think of my strategy, get my ducks in a row.
"But of course there was still an element of panic as mortgage and bills still have to be paid.
"I did a course online which was almost like a career and personal development mind-opening opportunity. It encouraged me to look at my skills, what I would really like to do, and through that process I got to realise I possibly could set out on my own, combining my skills in marketing, writing and mentoring. Now with The Write Step I want to help out small businesses who have grown themselves out of hard work and determination but now need to step up and embrace marketing and get their content out there.
"I'm the mother of three daughters as well, who are 15, 13 and 10. My husband said to me after I set up the business, 'I've said to you for years you should go out on your own'. But 10 years ago I couldn't, as my youngest is only 10 now. I couldn't leave a guaranteed salary with no guarantee.
"That's where furlough has come into its own although it's come in for a lot of flak and will have to be paid for at some time, it has given an extra safety net.