What You Need To Know

Finding employment can be difficult even during strong economic times because government policies can unintentionally create barriers to obtaining work. One such barrier is excessive occupational licensing. Today, as the U.S. continues to struggle through the COVID-19 pandemic and unemployment stands at 6.3 percent, policymakers should seize every opportunity to remove barriers to employment so that our recovery can be fast and strong.

Occupational licensing is a labor policy that has been overlooked until recently, but is ripe for reform. These government permissions that allow individuals to work in certain professions have grown exponentially over the past five decades. They are intended to prevent consumer harm from unskilled or inexperienced workers, but more often than not, they simply limit new competition and protect established businesses.

Excessive licensing has robbed our economy of nearly 3 million jobs, forced consumers to spend over $300 million each year for services that are not necessarily better, and prevented workers who already face social and economic challenges from gaining access to opportunities and economic mobility.

During the pandemic, states enacted common-sense reforms that increased the supply of healthcare professionals and beds for patients, without sacrificing health standards. These deregulatory measures serve as a model of what is possible, and they must be made permanent.

As the pandemic eases and jobs return, many workers in various industries will still struggle to obtain gainful employment because occupational licenses create costly, time-consuming obstacles. States should not waste this opportunity, but implement real reforms. This policy focus will explore policy approaches and solutions they can pursue.