Indeed, businesses, particularly small ones, might put the brakes on hiring and expanding if conditions don't improve.
"We have a bifurcated economy: big versus small," Menzies said. While big businesses and banks are doing well, he said, "the little guy, small businesses and job seekers are still in a recession."
Debbie Prout said many of the small businesses she works with at a payment processing firm have been suffering. "If the economy is bad, mom-and-pops are the ones that are hurt," said Prout. "I see it on a regular basis — companies aren't starting up."
As for the already battered housing market, recent economic news has made some buyers more cautious. Realtor Marybeth Brohawn said the downturn in home prices has enticed buyers. "Then they get scared," she said.
Patrick Donoho, executive director of the Maryland Retailers Association, said some retailers are "scared to death." The back-to-school and holiday seasons are the most profitable times of the year for retailers. Donoho said many worry if stocks don't recover, that could curtail future spending.
Edward Steinberg, owner of JS Edwards Men's Clothing in Pikesville, said he's just grateful the market plunge happened during the summer vacation season when sales would have been slow anyway.
Moreover, Steinberg said, suffering through 2008 prepared him for the recent market upheaval.
"The first punch was a couple of years ago," Steinberg said. "This is the second punch. It is still a shock and it hurts a lot. Knowing we recovered from the first punch makes it a little better."
Workers at Triton Metals in Hollywood also said they have learned to survive tough economic times.
After the Sept. 11 attacks the high-tech welding company had to regroup when federal government contracts dried up. They diversified the business by 2008 and were better prepared — even expanding the business. They think they can make adjustments to grapple with this week's turmoil as well.
"I think we're better prepared," said Mike Hutson, business development manager for the company. "It gave us some street smarts."
At Northwest Honda Northwest BMW, owner Edward Dreiband said he expects the stock market to spring back fairly quickly and noted that the financial environment isn't as bad as it was in 2008. But even Dreiband sees a potential cloud, noting that the high unemployment rate has a bigger effect on whether consumers spend.
"Unemployment is the real issue," he said. "That's what scares me."