Apr 16, 2019 - Economy

Main Street's salon boom

Two women look out the window of a salon

A salon in New York. Photo: Michael Nagle/Getty

As entire blocks worth of stores fall to behemoths like Walmart and Amazon, a surprising source of jobs has been the salon industry — a retail stronghold thriving because it provides services that can't move online.

What's happening: The occupations of nail technician and hair stylist are commanding an increasingly large share of retail jobs, and economists are sounding the alarm, saying these are among the least stable and lowest-paying jobs in the country.

New data, provided exclusively to Axios by the online job site ZipRecruiter, shows that postings for salon jobs skyrocketed between 2017 and 2018.

  • Openings in nail care jumped 186%; hair care, 103%; salon and spa, 150%.

But, but, but: Wages for these jobs have remained flat, despite the boom, says Saba Waheed, research director at the UCLA Labor Center.

  • A recent study by the center found that 78% of nail salon workers earn less than $12.39 an hour — two-thirds of the national median wage in the middle of last year.
  • 30% of nail technicians are self-employed and working without any benefits or labor protections. That's triple the average share of self-employed workers in other U.S. industries.
  • Nail salon workers are also predominantly women (81%) and foreign born (79%).
"It’s an industry of low cost services and low wage workers. But if this is a sector that continues to grow, we have to ask ourselves, 'Are we paying too little for the cost of getting our nails done?'"
— Saba Waheed
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