The number of massage therapists in the United States has grown by more than 16,000 in the past two years, according to new data from the country’s largest massage association.

Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) released its research this week. Among the results:

• The number of U.S. massage therapists as of January 2010 was 293,531. This represents an increase of 5.4 percent from the last estimate of 278,089, conducted in January 2008.

• California has the largest number of therapists, with an estimated 41,645.

• The state with the fewest massage therapists is North Dakota, with 599.

• The per capita, or number of U.S. citizens per massage therapist, has continued to decrease as a result of the growth in massage therapists. This means there are more massage therapists to serve the population. In 1998 there was an estimated one massage therapist for every 1,941 people in the United States. The current estimate is one massage therapist for every 1,036 people.

The figure was based on state licensing lists and estimates from primary membership organizations and state populations.

“Massage continues to gain respect from the public and health professionals as a relaxing and restorative way to promote health and reduce stress,” said ABMP President Les Sweeney. “While the rate of growth for massage therapists entering the profession has understandably slowed, there are still many people seeking massage therapy as a career.

“Massage has often attracted career changers in the past; now it’s even more attractive to people who want a second job because of the economy,” Sweeney added.

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