Six months in, the coronavirus pandemic has had a profound impact on the way we work and socialise.
And how we spend our money - travel and pubs are out, online gambling and home offices are in.
Myriad changes in people's behaviour, the product of social-distancing laws, border closures and health fears, have wrought the biggest shock on the region's economy in living memory.
The latest payroll data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the Hunter has shed 2.5 per cent, or one in 40, jobs since March, after five years when average annual jobs growth has been 3.3 per cent.
The ABS labour market survey paints an even gloomier picture, estimating more than 35,000 Hunter people, or one in 10 workers, have lost employment since February, even after a 5000-job recovery in July.
The region's official jobless rate has doubled to 9 per cent, though the real figure is likely to be far higher as many people have left the jobs market. Youth unemployment has grown from 11 to 20 per cent.
One word - uncertainty - sums up the attitude of many of the businesses who have spoken to the Newcastle Herald about their experience over the past six months.
How long will the pandemic last? Will there be an effective vaccine? What happens when JobKeeper runs out? When will staff come back to the office, if ever?
The snappy V-shaped recovery predicted early on is looking more like an L as the population hangs on state premiers' daily announcements of the latest case numbers.
The upheaval has not affected businesses equally.
A Mayfield delivery company can't find enough employees to distribute parcels around the city after a surge in online shopping.
Meanwhile, downstream businesses which rely on other companies' capacity to spend money on marketing and training are having to adapt or perish.
Inner-city cafes have lost office-worker customers and have limited seating capacity. Dry cleaners are suffering. Caterers are dormant.
The music and theatre industries are in disarray, often with no access to JobKeeper payments.
I'm probably more pessimistic than I am optimistic. It is going along longer than what people had hoped.Hunter Business Chamber boss Bob Hawes
Hunter employers have handed back apprentices to training companies, though many of these young people regained work when JobKeeper payments started flowing.
Hunter Research Foundation Centre economist Dr Anthea Bill said the region was subject to the same forces rocking the rest of Australia and the globe.
The nation's gross domestic product plummeted 7 per cent in the June quarter, the worst decline on record but better than in most other developed countries, including the United States (9.09 per cent), the United Kingdom (20.3 per cent), Spain (18.48 per cent), Germany (9.69 per cent) and Japan (7.81 per cent).
The vineyards tourism region is one of the few sections of the Hunter economy thriving.
Glandore Estate Wines at Pokolbin has doubled its staff compared with the same time last year due to an influx of Sydney visitors since the state's lockdown ended three months ago.
"We're extremely busy. The turnaround from the June long weekend has been extraordinary," general manager Duane Roy said.
"We went from absolutely nobody at the cellar door to being completely booked out in a matter of six days.
"We have a four-bedroom house on-site that we rent out, and that's as busy as ever as well."
Mr Roy said the Pokolbin vineyard "went dead" towards the end of January then lost its entire 2020 vintage to smoke taint.
But he said the pandemic was now driving domestic tourism.
"Regional tourism is probably getting the biggest benefit of that with no international [travel], but also with border closures."
Hunter Business Chamber boss Bob Hawes said the fallout of the pandemic had lasted a lot longer than most businesses had expected, forcing many to "run down the balance sheets, their stock levels, trying to save cash".
"You can only do that for so long if there's no pick-up," he said.
"I'm probably more pessimistic than I am optimistic. It is going along longer than what people had hoped, and we're still seeing reactions by governments interstate and intrastate that impact business."
Mr Hawes said businesses were having a "lot of difficulty" planning ahead.
"It would be nice to know where that horizon is, but no one's really sure. We do have many businesses that are going well, but others are below the line. We are seeing a mix.
"My heart bleeds for travel agents and that hospitality sector where there's no immediate prospect for change.
"In hospitality, it's great that they're reopening, but the issue for them is going to about capacity.
"In summer, those guys would traditionally budget for a boost in our region, but, if they're already operating at their covid limits, there's going to be very limited or no upside.
"They may be going OK now, but at the time when they're trying to make hay it's not going to happen as much as might otherwise have been while those restrictions are in place."
He predicted some companies would struggle to recapitalise after the pandemic as banks would be cautious about lending to a firm with a poor recent record.
Newcastle insolvency expert Chad Rapsey said he was less busy than usual because JobKeeper, mortgage holidays, tax deferrals and rent relief were propping up small businesses which might otherwise have gone under.
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission reported last week that the number of NSW companies entering external administration had fallen sharply, from 630 to 383, between the March and June quarters.
But Mr Rapsey agreed with an Australian Securities and Investment Commission forecast this month that business collapses could rise sharply next year as banks started to review loans.
"Subject to what further arrangements the government puts in place, I think the real test of when things are going to get difficult are at the end of the first quarter next year," he said.