These states have more nail salons than McDonald's

Eating a hamburger with yellow nails
Sonja Lekovic | Getty Images

Pop quiz: Which low-wage service sector establishments are more ubiquitous—nail parlors or fast-food joints?

Nail salons around the country are facing increased scrutiny after an expose by The New York Times detailed employment conditions and exploitation many manicurists face in the Big Apple. The series looked at health hazards and illegal financial practices, like paying workers as little as $10 a day.

In response to the story, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced the creation of a statewide task force to conduct salon-by-salon investigations of abuse.

It's a daunting task for the government. Nail salons are plentiful in the Empire State, with more than 19 for every 100,000 residents, according to data from the U.S. Census—second only to neighboring New Jersey, which had 20 in 2013. (Tweet This)

They also happen to outnumber McDonald's, another symbol of low-wage labor. Attention to the largely unregulated industry of personal service comes as big corporations are facing increasing pressure from shareholders, and the public, to raise wages and clean up labor practices.

One would think that, in a country struggling with obesity, McDonald's shops would far outnumber nail shops. Yet data suggest a more complicated picture.

According to a CNBC analysis, there are four times as many nail salons in New York as McDonald's locations. Only New Jersey has a greater ratio, with six times as many mani-pedi shops as Golden Arches. In all, 12 states and the District of Columbia have more nail salons than McDonald's, generally clustered in the Northeast and along the West Coast.

Better wages at McDonalds?

Meanwhile, the average McDonald's worker makes out better in earnings than a manicurist.

In April, McDonald's announced it would increase wages for 90,000 employees at corporate-owned establishments by $1 over the local minimum wage. The average wage at the Golden Arches would be $9.90 an hour after the increase.

Nail salon workers in New York make an average of $8.95 an hour, according to a 2014 report from the city. That's a figure from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so it only counts nail salons operating above board.