Northern Ireland will "do well" to stop unemployment from soaring to 100,000 by the end of 2020, a leading economist has warned.
Neil Gibson's shock prediction comes just after bookseller Eason announced the imminent closure of all seven of its local stores with the loss of 144 jobs.
At the start of the year the unemployment rate was just 2.4%, one of the lowest on record.
But unemployment has more than doubled since March, when 29,900 were out of work. Last month the claimant count here stood at 63,100 - but experts expect that figure to rise as the retail, hospitality, manufacturing and transport sectors continue to struggle.
It also follows new data that shows employers here proposed 2,500 redundancies in June, the highest monthly figure on record. It brought to 4,900 the total number proposed since the start of March - more than for the whole of 2019.
The latest labour market figures, published today, also suggest that one in five employees is currently furloughed.
Mr Gibson, EY's chief economist, warned that "we're definitely only at the foothills of this disruption of the labour market".
"If Northern Ireland can keep the number of unemployed people under 100,000 by the end of the year, we'll have done rather well," he said. "Eason is one of the many across the UK now starting to make decisions on what to do to reflect what they expect the world to look like late this year into next year."
Mr Gibson said the Government furlough and self-employed support schemes are "without any precedence" and have "done a lot to support incomes for people who otherwise wouldn't be able to stay in employment".
"The latest figures we have show that 240,000 people in Northern Ireland are on furlough and 76,000 are on self-employed schemes," said Mr Gibson. "If we have a third of the workforce in Northern Ireland on some form of Government support, the real question is how many of those will find their way back into work?
"We can expect more unemployment to come, unfortunately, as those support schemes begin to ease off. We're going to have a lot of unemployed people, that's a given, as it's unquestionably the case that not all of those people on support schemes will be able to find their way back in."
Mr Gibson said that while 100,000 is "a sobering number" it's also "not the end of the story" because individuals and companies can help curb joblessness.
"The redundancy data and the announcements from other large companies is telling us that we're definitely going to have considerable numbers of people being made redundant during the rest of 2020," he said.
"So we must now consider what each of us can do to help avoid that number being as high.
"It's not just what the Government can do to avoid those problems. What could we all do?
"We may have to be patient when we're queuing for a coffee. We might have to be willing to go back to the cinema when it's safe to do so.
"If we all save for a rainy day don't be surprised if there's nowhere to go when you get that day. To keep many of these people in work we have to think of ways we can play a small part."
The headline unemployment figures indicate the rapid pace of job losses in the early stages of the pandemic may have eased.
The number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits actually fell by 2,100 between April and June, although that was still more than double the March level.
Mike Brewer, chief economist at the Resolution Foundation think tank, said that fall was probably linked to the timing of Government support schemes. He suggested some people who were claiming universal credit earlier in the crisis have now got some furlough pay or received their self-employment grant.
Mr Gibson said small decisions could "change the track that we're currently on towards extremely worrying unemployment levels".
"This is a tough economic challenge but we have some choices to make - even if that's going out and buying a coffee on a Tuesday afternoon," he said.
"That may, ironically, just be enough to keep one more person part-time employed and keep that number at 99,999 rather than let it reach 100,000."
He said his message to the public is simple: "If masks are required, wear masks. If you've to queue a bit longer, queue a bit longer. If you've to hire staff, be brave and hire staff.
"We can all play a little part in that recovery because we are going to see more announcements like Eason because fundamentally the demand isn't there."
Economic output figures suggest Northern Ireland's economy shrank by almost 3% in the first quarter of 2020 - the biggest quarterly fall on record.
Dr Esmond Birnie, senior economist at Ulster University Business School, said the figures capture the earliest stages of the lockdown at the end of March.
"By any normal standards this is a grievous slump and would certainly indicate a major recession," he said, adding: "Sadly, the worst is still to come."
The number of local employees who are currently on furlough, with 76,000 on self-employed schemes