1.5 Million Filed State Unemployment Claims Last Week

As businesses weigh their options, many workers are nervous about picking up where they left off.

Semaj Watts, a recent college graduate in Las Vegas, was starting to take on more responsibility as a social media coordinator for the Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada when she and her colleagues were told to work from home.

Work began to dry up, and in April, she was furloughed. With coaching from her roommate, who was then unemployed, she applied for and received state benefits, which she supplemented with money she had saved for a car. She spent her days gardening, watching television and worrying that her unemployment might stretch into the fall and damage her career momentum.

Until the furlough, she said, “I had finally done everything that I’m supposed to — I graduated college, I moved out, I had a real job, I was starting my life.”

When Nevada businesses began to reopen. Ms. Watts, 24, got her hair and her nails done. In the last week of May, she returned to the office.

But her relief at getting her job back was tainted with horror. Dealing with social media for work meant that Ms. Watts, who is African-American, was repeatedly exposed to the video of the killing of George Floyd, who died while a white police officer knelt on his neck. The resulting unrest around the country, and the violence that sometimes accompanied it, left her terrified to leave her apartment.

“I went from being so excited to being so scared, and that’s a lot,” she said. “It’s been the most emotionally draining, scariest time in my life by far.”