Deep government spending cuts are unlikely to weigh on employment as heavily as initially feared, with most of the impact reducing hours worked rather than payrolls, according to economists.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office last month estimated that the $85 billion in federal budget cuts known as the “sequester,” which started taking hold on March 1, would cost the economy about 750,000 jobs by the end of the year.

Several economists have dismissed the CBO projection as too high and said in the worst case scenario, total job losses would probably be in the region of 300,000, partly because government agencies are likely to reduce hours worked to try to limit layoffs.