Cobbler: Hot Job in a Recession

Shoe repairers see long lines as careful consumers try to preserve what they've got.

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American consumers are increasingly keeping their wallets closed, and the halcyon days of Hollywood-driven, Main Street stilletto-mania seem a distant memory bathed in a fuzzy glow. But while consumers today may not be able to afford new shoes, they can't exactly head to work with holes in their soles.

So shoe cobblers are back in vogue. John McLoughlin, president of the Shoe Service Institute of America told USA Today that "cobblers at the nation's roughly 7,000 repair shops — down from more than 100,000 in the 1930s — are thriving, bordering on overwhelmed."

Some are even hiring.

The Labor Department reports there were 16,000 shoe and leather workers and repairers employed in manufacturing and in personal services in 2006. If you're curious about the work, it's a career that requires dexterity and mechanical aptitude, as well as some artistic ability, according to the Labor Department. Most shoe repairers learn on the job, often assisting experienced workers in repair shops, and they must keep their skills updated as shoe styles change often. Median earnings in 2006 were about $10 an hour.


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