TIME career

10 of the Most Under-Appreciated Professions

David Zweig's book Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion

Everything from perfumers to ghost writers to UN interpreters

Your job may not be as thankless as you think it is—at least maybe not when you compare it to this list. All of these professions have one thing in common: no one usually notices them until something goes wrong.

According to a new book by David Zweig, Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion, the most successful people with these careers share three common traits: “ambivalence toward recognition,” “meticulousness,” and “savoring of responsibility.” In other words, people who do these jobs well don’t care that you don’t know their names because they take pride in their work being done well. What a concept.

Thanks to their shared ambivalence, here are 10 under-appreciated professions that you might never have heard of:

Wayfinders

Have you ever taken note of the impressive signage at an airport? Probably not because when “wayfinders” do their job well, you’re able to arrive at the baggage claim or arrivals terminal seamlessly thanks to their system of signs, which are each designed with a specific color, font, or shape in mind to help you arrive at your destination.

Cinematographers

The Academy Awards gives out an Oscar for outstanding cinematography, but you probably used that part of the show as your snack break. Also known as the “Director of Photography” or “DP,” cinematographers are in charge of lighting the sets of movies and television series. The precision needed to do it well requires a meticulous and intelligent mind—as long as it belongs to a person who doesn’t mind staying out of the director’s spotlight.

Perfumers

People don’t usually pick up their Chanel No. 5 and wonder who calibrated the exact combination of ingredients needed to create that scent. However, that is the work of perfumers, or “noses” as they’re known in their industry. They work tirelessly to ensure that the fragrance matches the brand, and the more invisible they are, the more credit (and money) the brand receives.

Structural Engineers

Most people have never heard of Dennis Poon, but by 2020, he will have designed the structure for ten of the twenty tallest buildings in the world. Poon is a structural engineer, which means that his meticulous work allows a building to stand. While most of the credit for a building’s structure (if any is doled out) goes to the architect, Poon is more than happy to stay in the shadows.

Guitar technicians

Pete Clements, known as Plank, makes possible the sound magic of the world-famous band Radiohead as their chief guitar technician. Fans do not often consider the man behind the English rock band’s many effects pedals for their three guitars, but they certainly would if even one step was missed, which could throw off the entire sound system. Luckily, Plank takes much pride in his invisible work and does it well.

UN Interpreters

Possibly the most famous (infamous, actually) interpreter to date was Thamsanqa Jantjie, who attracted global negative attention after he fake-signed Nelson Mandela’s memorial service. That’s because when simultaneous interpreters, such as the UN’s Giulia Wilkins Ary, do their job well, they slip entirely below the radar. However, without Wikins Ary and her colleagues’ work, which research has shown to be one of the most grueling tasks a mind can take on, very little could get done at the international headquarters.

Graphic designers

The importance of this profession made national headlines in 2000, when the poor design of Florida’s presidential ballot confused voters and likely cost Al Gore the election. Theresa LePore, who created the misleading ballot, received hate mail and death threats, but she also brought attention to the silent art and brilliance of many successful graphic designers.

Anesthesiologists

While more people have heard of anesthesiologists, Dr. Joseph Meltzer of UCLA points out in Invisibles that they often aren’t the ones receiving the “fruit baskets” when a surgery goes particularly well. “It’s funny how on TV the surgeon is the leader of the OR, but in reality, during an emergency they’re often the ones freaking out, looking to me for assurance,” said Dr. Albert Scarmato of New Jersey. To excel in this field, one must epitomize the first of the three traits: ambivalence toward recognition.

Understudies

The role of the understudy got somewhat of a bad rap from the 1950 movie All About Eve, in which Eve Harrington schemes her way from understudy to lead actress. Zweig shows how understudies can take pride in being a part of a production, regardless of whether they ever step in front of the audience. But acting and the understudy’s lack of recognition seem directly at odds, which is why award-winning actor and director Ray Vitta said, “It’s not for the faint of heart.”

Ghost Writers

Did you think that celebrities like Serena Williams or Ed Koch wrote their own books? Although they are often largely assisted by talented ghost writers, it is often just the star’s name that appears on the cover. “To me it doesn’t matter,” said ghost writer Daniel Paisner. “It’s the joy of the work and the accomplishment that rewards me.” And I’m sure Serena and Ed are grateful for that, too.

You can read more from Zweig here.

TIME Education

Obama to Sign Bill Improving Worker Training

Barack Obama, Joe Biden
Vice President Joe Biden greets President Barack Obama as he arrives to speak at Community College of Allegheny County West Hills Center, Wednesday, April 16, 2014, in Oakdale, Pa., about the importance of jobs-driven skills training. Carolyn Kaster—AP

On Tuesday, President Obama and Vice President Biden will announce new executive actions on job training at the signing of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

Congress and the President have finally found some common ground: Obama will sign the first significant legislative job training reform effort in nearly a decade on Tuesday.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act passed by Congress on July 9 will streamline the federal workforce training system, trimming 15 programs that don’t work, giving schools the opportunity to cater their services to the needs of their region, and empowering businesses to identify what skills workers need for success and help workers acquire them.

The bipartisan, bicameral bill is a response to a projection that by 2022, 11 million workers will lack the education necessary to succeed in a 21st century workplace including bachelor’s degrees, associate’s degrees, and vocational certificates.

“Workforce training is critically important to help grow the American economy still recovering from recession and bridge the widening skills gap separating thousands of unemployed workers from promising careers in 21st century workplaces,” said Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) when the bill passed.

The Obama Administration apparently agrees. On Tuesday, when Obama signs the bill into law, he and Vice President Joe Biden will also announce new federal and private sector actions to address the need for an improved job training system, which currently serves about 21 million Americans including veterans, Americans with disabilities, the unemployed, and those who lack skills to climb the career ladder. The Obama administration’s new actions also complement the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act by improving federal training programs not included in the bill.

Earlier in 2014, President Obama tasked Biden with reviewing the federal training system to find ways to improve it. As a result of that review, Biden will issue a report Tuesday that outlines “job-driven” strategies that the Administration says will make the federal training system “more effective, more responsive to employers, and more accountable for results” in Tuesday’s report.

Chief among these strategies is a new “job-driven checklist,” a tool that measures how effective programs are in preparing students for careers that will be incorporated into applications for all 25 federal training grants, at a total of about $1.4 billion, starting Oct. 1. The checklist requires programs to engage with local employers in designing programs that cater to their needs, ramp up opportunities for internships and apprenticeships, and keep better data on employment and earning outcomes.

“From now on, federal agencies will use specific, job-driven criteria to ensure that the $17 billion in federal training funds are used more effectively,” a senior White House official said on a Monday evening press call.

The Obama administration will also expand opportunities for apprenticeships, considered a “proven path to employment and the middle class,” according to a White House statement. After completing these programs, 87% of apprentices gain employment at an average starting salary of $50,000.

In addition to using competitions and grants to bolster job training in the U.S., the administration will also use technology. On Tuesday, Obama and Biden will announce $25 million award from the Department of Labor to develop a web-based “skills academy” for adult learners. And the Department of Education will experiment with education models that award skills based on a person’s tangible skills rather than their performance in a classroom setting.

“Too often job training programs are focused on providing the skills needed for yesterday’s jobs, not the jobs of today and tomorrow,” an administration official said Monday. “And teaching methods are often rooted in outdated, class-based models that haven’t kept pace with technology and new training techniques.”

MONEY Raises

Why You Might Get a Raise Soon

140618_money_gen_12
iStock

Good news for workers: Employers think the future is bright

If you’re looking for a raise — or a job — some good fortune might be coming your way. In the second quarter of this year, more employers reported rising wages and expanding payrolls, according to a new survey from the National Association for Business Economics. And businesses expect the economy will keep growing. A quarter of survey respondents now predict that real GDP will go up more than 3% next year.

For its quarterly business conditions survey, the NABE polls its members, which include business leaders, consultants and economists in a range of industries. They say they’re feeling more confident about the state of the economy — and that’s good news for workers.

Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America, says as sales have gone up, businesses have finally needed to hire more employees to keep up with demand. Plus, now that Congress has averted a series of fiscal crises, employers think the economy will continue to grow, so they’ve started making investments again.

That includes investments in labor: This quarter, 43% of NABE’s respondents said their firms offered raises. That’s up from this time last year, when only 19% of respondents saw higher pay. A third of the respondents expect their businesses will raise salaries going forward. Also, 36% of respondents said their firms hired more people this quarter, and 37% expect their businesses to increase payrolls over the next three months.

“Employment has been rising, the unemployment rate has been coming down pretty sharply, so there’s no longer that deep bench of experienced workers,” Simonson says. “Increasingly, companies are having to pay a premium in order to have the best workers, to get anybody who has gone off to a competitor.”

The bad news? Overall demand for workers is still pretty low. Only 22% of respondents said they have a shortage of skilled workers. Compare that to before the recession: In January 2006, 44% of respondents needed more skilled workers.

But while the labor market remains slack, Simonson thinks the trends are positive.

“We’ve been hearing for the past year about companies having trouble finding workers,” Simonson says. “I do expect that at some point this year, we’ll see an acceleration in wage increases.”

MONEY Careers

POLL: How Do You Feel About Your Job?

Last year, less than half of U.S. workers were satisfied with their jobs, according to business research group The Conference Board. Are you one of the happy ones—or are you counting the days until you quit?

 

MONEY Microsoft

Why Microsoft Is Laying Off 18,000 People—During a Tech Boom

It's tough to be a desktop giant in a mobile app world.

+ READ ARTICLE

At a time when young social-media companies are being snapped up for billions and private investors seem eager to throw money at even kooky-sounding ideas—Yo!—Microsoft, that stalwart of the last great tech boom, has struggled to gain its footing. If you can call posting $5 billion in profits each quarter struggling. The upshot: A company that once seemed almost as if it could print money at will plans to cut 18,000 jobs over the next year.

What changed? While Microsoft once seemed to have locked up the PC market, the rise of smartphones and other mobile devices has opened up new avenues for competitors. Here’s how Microsoft lost it’s mojo in three charts:

Mobile killed the PC star

Microsoft earned a fearsome reputation in the ’80s and ’90s for locking up the personal computer market with its Windows operating system and productivity add-on Office. It even endured a painful antitrust case, when this feat seemed to give it an unshakeable grip on the computing sector. But then came the smartphone and the tablet. Today PC sales are declining. So while there’s a good chance you’re still using Windows in your cubicle at work, once you get home you’re watching movies on your iPad or playing games on your Andriod phone. PC sales have tumbled, something that’s only expected to continue. Fewer PCs, ultimately means, fewer copies of Windows and Office.

IDC Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, May 2014

Windows Phones haven’t broken through

Of course, Microsoft has tried to fight back. It’s newest version of Windows — Windows 8, released in 2012 — was designed to specifically to bridge the gap between PCs and tablets. But so far it’s failed to win many fans. Microsoft also tried to crack the smartphone market. It’s Windows Phone, released in 2010, has similarly failed to catch on. That’s one reason it acquired Nokia’s mobile phone division in April. Indeed, many of the layoffs will be tied to integrating this division. The jury’s still out on how the move will work, but Microsoft’s got a lot of ground to make up…

Operating system market share by unit shipments IDC

And Wall Street is demanding a change

The upshot is that a company which is still making money hand over fist — it’s got $88 billion in cash on its balance sheet — can look like it’s struggling. Life — or at least the stock market — is about keeping up with the Joneses.

YCharts

When the Joneses are Apple and Google, it’s not easy.

MONEY The Economy

A Key Fed Official Says the Job Market is Just Fine. But is He Right?

Richard Fisher, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Jose Luis Magana—Reuters/Corbis

With a little help from Jonathan Swift, Shakespeare, and World War II, Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher makes the case for why interest rates need to rise soon.

In between references to Shakespeare, beer goggles and Wild Turkey, Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher— a member of the Federal Open Market Committee that sets the nation’s interest-rate policy— expressed concern Wednesday about the risks caused by the Fed’s ongoing stimulative policies.

Thanks to a dramatically improving jobs picture, according to Fisher, the Fed should not only cut off its bond-purchasing program (known as “QE3″) by October, but the central bank should also shrink its portfolio of assets and begin raising interest rates early next year or sooner.

Whether or not the economy can withstand monetary tightening — fewer jobs means fewer people able to buy stuff — is open for debate. The real question, though, is if the jobs picture is really that strong?

First some context.

In his colorful speech, Fisher, one of the Fed’s leading “inflation hawks,” reiterated his belief that the Fed’s rapidly escalating balance sheet (now at approximately $4.4 trillion) in combination with a near-zero federal funds rate has led to investors having “beer goggles.” (As Fisher explains it, “this phenomenon occurs when alcohol renders alluring what might otherwise appear less clever or attractive.”) This is what he says is happening with stocks and bonds, which are both relatively expensive.

To make his point Fischer quoted Shakespeare’s Portia in Merchant of Venice: “O love be moderate, allay thy ecstasy. In measure rain thy joy. Scant this excess. I feel too much thy blessing. Make it less. For fear I surfeit.”

Portia’s adjectives (joy, ecstasy and excess) describe “the current status of the credit, equity and other trading markets that have felt the blessing of near-zero cost of funds and the abundant rain of money made possible by the Fed and other central banks that have followed in our footsteps,” Fisher said.

Of course, the Federal Reserve hasn’t bought trillions of dollars of debt, and cut the main interest rate to nothing, for no reason. There was something called, you know, the Great Recession — the once-in-a-lifetime cataclysmic economic event from which the country is still recovering.

But, said Fisher, things are improving, especially in the labor market. Not only did businesses add almost 300,000 employees last month, but there are more job openings, workers are quitting more often and wages are rising. Is he right?

Let’s check out some graphs:

Job openings:

ycharts_chart-1

Fisher is right that job openings “are trending sharply higher.” This time last year, there were a little less than 3.9 million job openings. Right now there are more than 4.6 million – an 18% increase.

“Quits”:

quits

The healthier an economy, the higher the number of employees who quit their job to either find another or start a new business. Therefore a higher so-called quits rate, means a healthier labor market.

Like job openings, the number of quits has been rising since bottoming out during the recession. The major difference though is that the number of job openings has almost reached pre-recession levels, while quits has not.

Wages:

wage growth
BLS

Fisher admits that wages aren’t growing “dramatically.” Nevertheless, he cites the Current Population Survey and the most recent National Federation of Independent Business survey to show that wages are on the rise.

However, wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Americans in the private sector are earning $24.45 an hour, only up 1.9% from last year.

But these three metrics aren’t the only metrics to gauge the health of the labor market.

Long-Term Unemployed:

l-t unemployment
BLS

Before the recession, about 1.3 million workers were without a job for longer than 27 weeks. Today, that number is slightly more than 3 million. While that’s significantly better than the post-recession high of 6.8 million in August 2010, there are still a lot of workers who’ve been without a job for a long time.

“Long-term unemployment is still a significant source of slack in the economy and is accounting for a historically large share of the total unemployment rate,” says Wells Fargo Securities economist Sarah House.

Broader unemployment:

l-t2
BLS

And while the unemployment rate may signify the economy is moving closer to full employment, the picture is less sanguine if you look at a broader unemployment rate that takes into account the underemployed (part-time workers who want to work full-time) and discouraged workers. Before the recession that number hovered a little over 8%. It’s now 12.1%. And while it’s trending down, it’s not coming down fast enough. At least according to recent testimony by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.

Conventional wisdom says inflation will come when wages really start to rise. Some, like Fisher, think we’re getting really close to that point. But if you take into account wage data from the BLS and look at the millions of Americans who aren’t working to their full capacity, it’s not hard to see how tightening monetary policy might make life harder on lots of workers.

TIME Companies

Microsoft to Cut Up to 18,000 Jobs

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella gestures during the keynote address of the Build Conference in San Francisco, April 2, 2014
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella gestures during the keynote address of the Build Conference in San Francisco, April 2, 2014 Eric Risberg—AP

Most of the cuts will come from Nokia, which it bought in April

Correction appended 11:o9am ET

Software giant Microsoft Corp will cut up to 18,000 jobs over the next year, it announced in a press statement Thursday.

The company said the cuts are part of “a restructuring plan to simplify [the] organization and align the recently acquired Nokia Devices and Services business with the company’s overall strategy.”

The bulk of the cuts, around 12,500 professional and factory positions, will come from the Nokia business, which Microsoft purchased for $7.2 billion in April. The acquisition brought Microsoft’s headcount to around 127,000 staff.

The cuts, which will be fully completed by June 30 next year, are the largest in Microsoft’s 39-year history. In 2009, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer cut 5,800 jobs or 6 percent of staff to stem the effects of the recession.

The plans were announced in an email from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who was appointed in February. This email follows Nadella announcing plans for a “leaner” business in an open note to employees last week.

Nadella’s cuts may be an attempt to make Microsoft more competitive against Google and Apple. Computer-maker Hewlett Packard has also announced job losses with plans to cut 50,000 of their 250,000 workforce over the next three to five years.

Correction: This article originally misstated how many staff joined Microsoft with the Nokia deal. It was around 32,000.

MONEY Careers

These 2 Key Moves Will Help You Land Your Dream Second Career

Get the inside scoop on your future job and adjust your spending to match your life goals.

If you’re of a certain age, you may remember the Doris Day song, Que Sera, Sera? (Whatever Will Be, Will Be). It went like this:

When I was just a child in school,
I asked my teacher, “What will I try?”
Should I paint pictures, should I sing songs?”
This was her wise reply: “Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be.
The future’s not ours to see. Que sera, sera.”

These days, many boomers are having their own Que Sera Sera moment, wondering “what they will try” next and whether they can afford to do it in “unretirement.” Start a company? Continue working full-time, maybe at a different company or industry? Shift to part-time or contract work?

Many want to keep earning an income—from something that’s meaningful. In other words, doing well personally and doing good socially.

(MORE: Plotting Your Next Move for ‘Unretirement’)

Don’t Listen to the Teacher

But, as Harvard University psychology professor and Stumbling on Happiness author Daniel Gilbert observes, the Que Sera Sera teacher’s reply isn’t that wise or helpful. Instead, he recommends exploring your possibilities by learning from surrogates: people engaged in something that attracts you.

“Teachers, neighbors, coworkers, parents, friends, lovers, children, uncles, cousins, coaches, cabdrivers, bartenders, hairstylists, dentists, advertisers — each of these folks has something to say about what it would be like to live in this future rather than that one, and at any point in time we can be fairly sure that one of these folks has actually had the experience that we are merely contemplating,” Gilbert writes in Stumbling on Happiness.

Then, if you determine that your next move will mean an income cut, I believe you should start getting more frugal, so you can enjoy your new life without feeling squeezed.

Wise Words From A Transition Pro

To learn more about major midlife transitions, I reached out to Harlan Limpert, the 64-year-old Chief Operating Officer for the Unitarian Universalist Association, the church group’s umbrella organization, and former head of human resources at Target.

Due to his career path, many people have informally consulted with Limpert over the years for advice about finding meaning and purpose through work (full-time or part-time).

Limpert worked in HR for two years at Target in Minneapolis after college in the early 1970s. It was a good job, he says, but he felt it didn’t offer enough in terms of life’s meaning. So he went to seminary at Starr King School for the Ministry for Unitarian Universalists in Berkeley, Calif. and then became a chaplain at St. Elizabeth’s, the mental hospital in Washington, D.C.

(MORE: Busting the Myths About Work in Retirement)

Although he found chaplaincy rewarding, Limpert felt it wasn’t the right career for him and, after two years, headed back to Target. While at Target, Limpert stayed engaged with a local congregation. And in 2001, at 51, he quit the HR job to become the Unitarian Universalist Association’s director of lay leadership development—a shift that took advantage of his human resource skills but also came with a significant cut in pay.

These days, Limpert spends three weeks a month at its headquarters in Boston and one week back home in Minneapolis. “It’s the perfect job for me,” he says.

Limpert’s 2 Rules to Follow

In a wide-ranging conversation, Limpert stressed two points for anyone thinking through a major transition:

First, investigate carefully any potential job or career options before leaping into a new endeavor. “The romanticism of the ‘other’ is a huge mistake people make,” he cautions.

(MORE: 4 Tips to Play the Long Game in Work and Life)

In particular, if you’ve labored in the private sector, don’t put on rose-colored glasses about jobs in the nonprofit world. “People think business is hard and bad and the nonprofit world is good and easy,” he says. “Well, no. The question to pursue is, ‘How can I get a realistic picture of what my next life might be?’”

Do your research. Get involved. And, as Gilbert emphasized and Limpert reinforced, talk to lots of people engaged in the kind of job you believe will give you greater emotional and mental satisfaction and financial security.

Limpert’s second major point: A frugal lifestyle will help you fund and succeed at a major transition.

Many unretirement jobs come with a reduced salary; it’s a typical trade-off for the greater flexibility that comes with part-time or contract work. And full-time employees often take a hit if they move from the for-profit sector to the nonprofit world.

The career switch was financially easy for Limpert because he and his wife have always lived relatively modestly, focusing their spending on their children’s education and travel rather than on a big house or luxury cars. By living frugally, “you’re in a position to accept a reduced income,” says Limpert. “You have the economic flexibility to do what you want.”

Frugality Isn’t Pennypinching

Of course, mention frugality or thrift and words like stingy, cheap and hoarding quickly some to mind. Big mistake.

David Starr Jordan, the founding president of Stanford University, rightly noted in a 1915 talk that thrift “does not involve stinginess, which is an abuse of thrift, nor does it require that each item of savings should be financial investments; the money that is spent on the education of one’s self or of one’s family, in travel, in music, in art, or in helpfulness to others, if it brings real returns in personal development or in a better understanding of the world we live in, is in accordance with the spirit of thrift.”

In today’s world, many of my fellow boomers know they wrongly equated the good life with owning lots of stuff. In our hearts, we’ve always known that what gives us genuine satisfaction are experiences and creativity; family and community; a sense of purpose and a spirit of generosity.

Thrift is essentially a mindset for trying to match your spending with your values. “Cheapskates aim to buy as much as they can for as little as possible, not caring much for the quality or environmental or ethical virtues of the items they’re consuming,” Farhad Manjoo wrote when he was Slate’s technology columnist. “To be frugal, on the other hand, is to consider the full ramifications of every purchase.”

Okay, what if you’ve been more spendthrift than thrifty? In that case, work on creating a more frugal lifestyle into your unretirement planning while you’re investigating options for meaningful work.

How to Become More Frugal

The two efforts go hand in hand. There is no shortage of resources for practical suggestions.

I recommend Mark Miller’s The Hard Times Guide to Retirement Security: Practical Strategies for Money, Work, and Living and Kerry Hannon’s What’s Next?: Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond. And, if you’ll permit me, I’d also suggest reading my book, The New Frugality.

Websites like The Simple Dollar and comprehensive, free or low-cost online financial calculators such as those at Analyzenow.com offer the kind of frugal information that can help turn the dream of an encore job into a financially-realistic pursuit.

Simply put, the payoff from pursuing conversations with job surrogates and adopting a frugal approach to money in your unretirement planning is potentially huge—financially and emotionally.

Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor for American Public Media’s Marketplace and author of the forthcoming Unretirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and The Good Life. He writes about Unretirement twice a month, focusing on the personal finance and entrepreneurial start-up implications and the lessons people learn as they search for meaning and income. Tell him about your experiences so he can address your questions in future columns. Send your queries to him at cfarrell@mpr.org. His twitter address is @cfarrellecon.

MONEY

One Reason Today’s Jobs News Isn’t Great for Your Money

Crowd of commuters walking in midtown New York
Mitchell Funk—Getty Images

Great jobs numbers have stock investors cheering. But what about bonds?

We’re heading into the 4th of July weekend with reasons to be cheerful. The jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics came in surprisingly strong. Unemployment is down to 6.1%, the lowest level since before the financial crisis. And employers reported adding 288,000 new jobs, considerably more than the roughly 212,000 economists had forecasted, according to a Reuters survey.

At the same time, the stock market continued it’s rally. After the report the Dow climbed past 17,000 for the first time. So the story here — more jobs, stronger economy, good news for investors — is clear, right?

Well, actually, that’s if you care only about the stock market. The bond market had a different reaction this morning: Yields on Treasuries ticked up, which means that their prices fell. And while most of us consider bonds the ho-hum, steady part of our portfolios, they stand to take a big hit if employment continues to come back more quickly than expected.

The reason? In the upside-down world on bond investing, a really strong and sustained recovery means the Fed is more likely to raise interest rates — and rising interest rates cause bonds to fall in value. In this case, the potential slide could be worse because bonds gained in value this year as investors bet that the status quo of low interest rates would hold.

Of course, the jobs report wasn’t perfect. There are still plenty of signs of economic slack. Wage growth is still slow. And then there’s this:

fredgraph

Remember, the unemployment rate only captures people who say they are still looking for work. The graph above shows that the number people either working or trying to work is historically low. That partly reflects demographic changes, but also a large number of people so discouraged in their job searches they’ve stopped looking. Numbers like these are one reason Janet Yellen and the Fed may continue to hold rates low despite the better numbers.

Still, after a long period of low rates and strong returns for bonds, people who run mutual funds are worried that many investors are unprepared for rising interest rates. Speaking yesterday, before the jobs numbers came out, T. Rowe Price chief economist Alan Levenson noted that the risk of losses on long-maturity bonds is unusually high. “I don’t know that retail investors are aware, as they’ve ridden this bond market down to lower yields, that the duration of their assets and vulnerability to capital losses is extraordinary by historical standards,” he said.

How big a loss are we talking about? An exchange-traded fund owning long-maturity bonds has a “duration” of about 14 years, which roughly translates to a 14% capital loss should rates rise a full percentage point. A more typical fund used as a core bond holding, the Vanguard Total Bond Market Fund, has a duration of 5.6, so would face roughly a 5.6% decline in a one-point rate spike.

This doesn’t mean investors should be running away from bonds. Rates could stay low for a long time. And compared to stocks, bonds are still likely to be less volatile, especially in the lower-duration bonds you might have in a short- or intermediate-term bond fund. But today’s happy job news is reminder that the era of strong bond returns is likely coming to a close.

MONEY The Economy

Why the Good Jobs Report Isn’t Even Better

140702_JR_GOVERN_1
Bridge Building in the New Deal Era Photo Researchers—Getty Images

These four charts show why today's jobs report could have been that much better— if only public-sector employment would ever bounce back.

Thursday’s jobs report, which showed that the nation’s unemployment rate fell to 6.1%, was viewed in a very positive light.

Not only did more Americans gain employment than expected in June, but wages perked up as well. The White House, in fact, noted that the private sector has added 9.7 million jobs over 52 straight months of job growth.

The key word there is private. Of the 288,000 jobs added in June, 262,000 were private sector positions. That means only 26,000 came from Federal, state and local governments. Which means if you’re a teacher or a Leslie Knope-wannabe, finding work remains less than easy.

In fact, this chart shows how the public sector outlook has deteriorated since the end of the recession in June 2009:

US Government Payrolls Chart

US Government Payrolls data by YCharts

Yet in the aftermath of past recessions, such as the one that ended in 2001, local, state and federal jobs have traditionally been the first to rebound:

US Government Payrolls Chart

US Government Payrolls data by YCharts

Federal employment in particular continues to be weak…

Source: BLS

…The same goes for teaching jobs.

teachers
Source: BLS

Why have teachers had such a rough go of it? Well, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, states are simply spending less on education:

At least 35 states are providing less funding per student for the 2013-14 school year than they did before the recession hit. Fourteen of these states have cut per-student funding by more than 10 percent.

But states are not alone. Ever since the effects of the stimulus have worn off, federal government spending has also hit a wall.

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