Forget manufacturing employment figures and
. The state of American hair could signal how well the economic recovery is progressing.
Visits to beauty salons tend to slip during downturns, as customers stretch out the periods between appointments. But once the economic outlook improves, industry experts such as Paul Mitchell hair care company founder John Paul DeJoria say, customers start flooding back into salons for more touch-ups.
Beauty salon sales grew at a nearly 5.4% rate last year and in 2010, compared with a 2.3% increase in 2009, according to financial information company Sageworks. Hairdressers' profit margins averaged 7.8% over the last two years -- higher than during the recession.
By 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects, customers will need 15.7% more hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists -- that's nearly 98,400 positions that will need to be filled.
Hairdressers in 2010 made an average annual salary of $22,760, including tips, with the highest-paid workers in the industry setting up shop in New Mexico, Texas and Colorado, according to the bureau.
A Professional Beauty Assn. index tracking the industry's health and outlook reached record highs last year, with 57% of salon owners saying they saw a same-store sales increase between the first quarters of 2010 and 2011. In another historical high, 34% said they added employees over the same period.
From 2009 to 2010, the overall hair-care market grew 2.3%, according to the report, with shipments of hair-care products reaching $1.9 billion. In the same stretch of time, hair color shipments increased 6.3% while smoothing and straightening treatments jumped 3%.