Tattoos may be a growing trend. But increasingly, so is tattoo removal. And the reasons have more to do with economics than aesthetics.

"In 2012 versus 2011, tattoo removal demand has climbed 32 percent," said Jasson Gilmore, CEO and co-founder of The Patient's Guide, an internet clearinghouse of cosmetic medical information.

Gilmore's figures indicate 40 percent of people seeking tattoo removal do so for employment reasons: landing – or keeping - a job.

That's more than double the 18 percent who are erasing the name of an ex-lover or ex-spouse.

"We're seeing now that people are citing economic reasons as the major driver for them," said Gilmore.

After all, it's a tough time for job seekers. And tattoos can tilt the tables against an applicant.

"In my experience, talking with (human resources) professionals, someone who comes in with a visible tattoo is perhaps not going to be perceived as favorably as somebody who doesn't," said David Barron, a labor and employment attorney with the Houston law firm Cozen O'Connor.

Barron tells FOX 26 News that "tat discrimination" varies widely, depending on the type of job - and who's doing the hiring.

"People working in warehouses, or mechanics in shops: it's just not an issue. And I think in the more white-collar, professional arena, it is more of an issue."

But discrimination is illegal, isn't it? Not necessarily, says Barron. If the differential treatment is based on race, religion or gender, that's barred by federal law.

But tattoos are not covered by those same laws. And according to David Barron, companies have a lot of latitude regarding their employees' appearance.

"With respect to piercings, tattoos, clothing, for the most part they have wide discretion under the law," explained Barron. "And they can set whatever policies they think are appropriate for their business."