While You Were Sleeping

By Paul Hallasy

While everyone has been preoccupied with the possibility of a terrorist attack in New York (although the government says there’s no evidence to indicate such an attack is imminent), there was another headline in the New York Times that I found even more disturbing:

“Half of New Yorkers Say They Are Barely or Not Getting By, Poll Says”1

Let that sink in for a minute.

That means that four million people are struggling to survive in New York City, the richest city in America.

I’m one of those people.

Once again I find myself “between jobs,” and it’s not for lack of trying to find one.

In the last three months, I’ve answered over 400 want ads. (I have to keep track of them in order to continue receiving unemployment benefits, so I didn’t just pick a number out of the air.)

Why, you may ask, are you having so much difficulty? Isn’t the economy doing great?

Well, let’s examine the reasons.


Since 2006, when I was laid off from my last long-term position (which was still a contract position, but at least back then my company was able to commit to a yearly contract), my industry—educational publishing—has been decimated by two factors: technology and outsourcing. The company that employed me in 2006 is one-quarter its former size. Most educational publishing companies are now skeleton operations with most of the “heavy lifting” (i.e., real work) being “outsourced” (i.e., done in India by people making a fraction of American wages).

In this new reality, most of the jobs that are available are either temp, contract or freelance. And since unions are now practically non-existent, workers have no leverage to ask for better.

Simultaneously, the process of getting a job has itself become more complicated. Whereas previously, a job interview would have been sufficient to assess a candidate’s skills, it’s now common practice to have to undergo one or more phone interviews, and perhaps even a video interview, before getting an in-person interview.

A lot of the most common methods that used to be able to land you a job (by which I mean answering want ads and going to employment agencies) simply no longer work. Any want ad—for even the most undesirable job—is guaranteed to elicit at least a few hundred responses in a city the size of New York. (Again, if you think I’m making up numbers, just go to LinkedIn, which will tell you how many people have applied for a job. And that’s just on LinkedIn!)

Human resource departments either don’t have the time or don’t have the ability to do the actual work of finding out whether or not someone is qualified for a position, so anyone who isn’t an exact match for the job description is simply eliminated. (Of course, sometimes that position has already been filled internally or the position itself has been eliminated. They never tell you why you didn’t get a job.)

So-called “temp agencies” have become nothing more than payroll companies. The only function they serve is to provide companies with a steady stream of “non-employees” for which they don’t have to offer health insurance.

Like temp agencies (a misnomer, since no one can really “choose” when they want to work), “permanent” employment agencies and recruiters have also become useless, since any company (or individual, for that matter) can simply go to LinkedIn and find anyone they want. The only “service” these companies provide is sending you even more want ads, which, of course, anyone can find himself.

Oh, and one more thing:

There is rampant age discrimination which is difficult to prove and almost impossible to prosecute. With the exception of upper management positions, most companies are simply looking for the cheapest person they can find, and that tends to be a recent college graduate, not someone (like myself) with years of experience.

So that leads me back to terrorism.

I think these attacks in Paris—as horrible and tragic as they are–have thrown a real monkey wrench into this presidential campaign. Of course, we’ve been through this before, but the Republicans are predictably amping up their war rhetoric, and even Hillary Clinton was on TV yesterday hyping her plan to deal with ISIS.

What this means is that the economic situation of New Yorkers—and all Americans—will continue to deteriorate, corporations will continue their complete domination of this country, and we will very likely find ourselves in yet another war.

1 http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/19/nyregion/half-of-new-yorkers-say-they-are-barely-or-not-getting-by-poll-shows.html?_r=0

About the author.

Paul Hallasy is a New York City-based comedian, writer, actor and singer. He performs regularly in New York City and has performed at clubs and colleges across the United States and around the world. A favorite of both gay and straight audiences, he was recently named one of “7 Funny LGBT Comics You Shouldn’t Have Missed” by The Advocate. He has appeared as a pundit in newspapers and magazines (The New York Times, New York magazine, National Journal), and on TV (CNN, CBS Evening News, CBC’s Connect with Mark Kelley), radio (WNYC, Watson n Watson), websites (GRITtv, Gridskipper), and the stage (Laughing Liberally). He is also the author of a book called New York Trilogy.


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