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For context, I was a junior developer during the dot com crash, in Boulder. I worked at a web consultancy.

I saw decent developers laid off, but good developers kept on. I saw companies desperately hunting for business (and signing ruinous contracts to have revenue). I saw promises to employees that had been made in exuberance broken (we'll open a London office). I saw poor business practices--lay offs the week of Thanksgiving, for example. I saw the business I was a part of get smaller and smaller as the fat was trimmed.

However, for good developers, there were still raises. I know some great people who were hired away, so I think that the job market still existed. But you certainly weren't getting the exuberant benefits in the new job.

I was too young to be on recruiters' radar, so I can't comment on that.

As far as insulating yourself, I think the best things you can do are:

   * be humble
   * learn new skills
   * be cognizant of the business and the value it provides to consumers, and where it is weak
   * know if the business is profitable, and how (1 big customer? 1,000,000 small ones? advertising) 
   * save a large chunk of your salary, and not just in your 401k
   * keep your network alive (maybe be an informal recruiter? http://www.mooreds.com/wordpress/archives/1728 )
The easiest way to keep a job is not to need it because you have a buffer of savings, a viable network, and have valuable skills. In my experience, those developers can land on their feet even when they are surprised by a layoff.

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