Half of all firms in Northern Ireland intend to reduce staff levels following lockdown, a survey shows.
Restrictions to limit the spread of the coronavirus have produced the worst economic results on record, the Northern Ireland Chamber said.
Some 77% of members have furloughed workers and 12% have made people redundant.
In terms of the economy, the vast majority of indicators dropped to historic lows, with declines far exceeding those seen at the height of the global financial crisisAnn McGregor, Northern Ireland Chamber
Almost a quarter have reduced working hours and many have mentioned salary reductions.
A fifth implied that their businesses may not survive.
Ann McGregor, chief executive of Northern Ireland Chamber, said: “This survey reflects the fall-out of arguably the worst economic and social crisis of our lifetime.
“In terms of the economy, the vast majority of indicators dropped to historic lows, with declines far exceeding those seen at the height of the global financial crisis.”
The unprecedented slump in business cash flow is a key concern as it severely hampers business activity and staff retentionAnn McGregor, Northern Ireland Chamber
The services sector suffered particularly badly, with consumer-facing firms most acutely exposed to economic headwinds from the pandemic, the business leader added.
She said: “The manufacturing sector had a dismal three months, with collapsing demand and major disruption to supply chains weighing on the sector.
“The unprecedented slump in business cash flow is a key concern as it severely hampers business activity and staff retention.”
The survey said the biggest change was in the proportion of companies intending to introduce flexible working (62%) but also almost one in four (23%) said they intended to reduce office space.
The chamber added: “One in two members (52%) highlighted their intention to reduce staff levels post Covid-19.”
Seven in 10 members (69%) believe their prospects will deteriorate over the next 12 months.
Almost one in four believe their business will grow over the coming year.
Ms McGregor added: “Businesses were already concerned about the impact of Brexit on the economy before Covid-19, however the recent pandemic has placed this in an entirely different context, with companies facing a double whammy of Brexit and the Covid-19 fallout, placing a huge challenge on the business community in Northern Ireland.”