And managers are taking other steps too. In addition to reducing hours, a common measure in recessions, they’re also slashing pay levels –- which is much more unusual, and may be an ominous sign for the post-virus economy.

Salary cuts billed as temporary could easily end up as a more permanent feature of payrolls, with employees finding they’re expected to work for 10% or 20% less than before, according to Gregory Daco at Oxford Economics.

“That, sadly, is a reality of the recession that may potentially last longer,” he said.

‘Scary Time’
Lower incomes would hold back a rebound in consumer demand to support the economy once the virus is controlled. For now, workers who lost their jobs are forced back onto savings or government aid.

Christy Casanova was an associate marketing manager at a beauty tech start-up in California. It was the kind of work she was able to do from home, and she’d been doing that for about three weeks. Then she was laid off, along with many colleagues, via a Google Hangouts call on March 27.

“I have to stretch out whatever I have left in my bank account,” said Casanova, who’d finally been able to move into her own place in Hayward -- a commuter suburb of San Francisco -- and had also just bought a car. “It’s a scary time.”

Middle-class Americans went into the virus slump in better financial shape than before the 2008 crisis, with around $2,000 in liquid savings on average. Still, months without pay will put even those who’ve managed to build a nest egg under financial strain.

In most states, unemployment systems are creaking under the unprecedented burden of applications, leading to delays in cash payments. The government is also providing direct payments of $1,200 or more to some households, as part of its virus relief plan, but the extent to which they’ll help depends on local costs of living.

‘The Other Side’
And the outlook for a rapid return to work is bleak.

Just a few months ago, job openings outnumbered the unemployed by more than a million. But openings in white-collar industries (a category that ranges from biotech to finance and accounting) plunged 22% between March 9 and April 6, according to Glassdoor.