Tough times, great nails?

During the recession, tens of thousands of newpaper, construction and financial jobs have been lost, probably for good.

We can blame many of the losses on the recession. But some, like jobs in photofinishing and at record shops, are being permanently lost to changing technology.

But no matter how bad the economy gets, if seems enough of us are getting our nails done that the number of jobs in the “nail sector” is up six percent nationwide.

This fact was a stop-me-in-my-tracks moment, while reading last week’s Wall Street Journal’s report on jobs lost and gained during the recession.

So I set out to find if that’s the case in the Twin Ports. I got mixed reports from a sampling of salons in the Twin Ports, including economy nail salons that have opened in recent years. Sunny Nails at 24 N. Second Ave. West in Duluth reports business down with the recession, while MK Hair and Nails, 406 N. Central Ave., reports business remaining stable, thanks to its regulars.

But the story is different at the local spas and higher end hair salons where nails are "hot" these days.

Jessica Mantor who works the front desk at Elysium Salon and Day Spa in Duluth, has seen business for manicures and pedicures increase so much that the luxury spa had to hire another nail technician to meet the demand.

“People are trying to take care of themselves more,” Mantor said, noting that massages are also up. “People are being more health conscious of themselves. They’re trying to do things that relax them. People want to reduce stress and be healthier, so they’re not relying on the high cost of health care.”

Lila Hickok, owner of La Peinado in Superior, says pedicures continue to grow in popularity. She attributes that to a changing attitude among women.

“Women today have more of an ‘I’m worth it’ attitude,” she said. “Today’s woman is going to have what she wants, one way or another. She’s going to find a way.”

Also, women want nice nails to go with the causal shoes, like flip flops, that are so popular, she says.

However, she doesn’t see the popularity of manicures increasing at the same time at her salon. Full-service salons like hers have been undercut by the nail-only salons that offer the service at cheaper prices, she says.