The market, at least in Dallas/Austin was barren. The only new job postings on job boards were repost by recruiters looking to pad their portfolios.
> How were your wages affected?
I keep lowering my expected hourly rate/salary weekly. When I got it down to 50% a recruiter called me back and got me something.
> Did recruiters simply cease to exist?
All the opportunistic, bad recruiters crawled back to whatever hole they came from. Same with all the unqualified "bandwagon programmers" who cashed on the bubble and gave all of us a bad reputation forcing hiring managers into brutal interviewing processes.
Recruiters were let go too, agencies closed or downsized. A few good ones remained.
> More to the point, what advice do you have for developers who want to be well-insulated if/when the next crash happens?
Well first, you got to have some sort of financial cushion and a plan to cut down expenses to the bone: the day I was laid of on 2001 I canceled my phone, cable, any other superfluous monthly expense. Also moved to smaller apartment as soon as I could. I knew it was going to be rough for a while.
Next is to know which industry to aim for: after 9/11 lots of money flowed to military contractors so I started aiming for that industry. I ended up programming for a company that provided services for the military until the market recovered.
The one desk with a person had a stack nearly 2 feet high of resumes. I spoke to her, and she said she just couldn't read all the resumes coming in, and she was also having to handle the client side (which meant endless calls to companies, trying to find open positions).
That's when I knew the old system (glory days) were over.