Oc­cu­pa­tional licensing “hin­ders” U.S.

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Aldo Svaldi

U.S. Secretary of La­bor Alexan­der Acosta took on the myr­iad oc­cu­pa­tional li­censes that state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments re­quire dur­ing a break­fast speech in Den­ver on Fri­day morn­ing, ar­gu­ing they may be keep­ing 2 mil­lion to 3 mil­lion peo­ple from jobs they want.

“Oc­cu­pa­tional licensing hin­ders the Amer­i­can work­force,” he told the crowd gath­ered be­fore the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Ex­change Coun­cil. “Al­most one in three jobs re­quires an oc­cu­pa­tional li­cense.”

Acosta ac­knowl­edged the ne­ces­sity of prov­ing com­pe­tency for highly skilled po­si­tions and jobs that im­pact pub­lic health and safety. But he told the au­di­ence of con­ser­va­tive po­lit­i­cal lead­ers that more than 1,100 oc­cu­pa­tions face a licensing re­quire­ment in at least one U.S. state.

Such re­quire­ments of­ten load up job seek­ers with un­nec­es­sary bur­dens in time and money. And many cer­ti­fi­ca­tions, once earned, typ­i­cally don’t trans­fer across state lines.

Acosta held up an ap­pli­ca­tion that Mary­land re­quires for for­tune tell­ers. The ap­pli­ca­tion re­quires three ref­er­ences who can at­test to the good char­ac­ter of the ap­pli­cant and a pay­ment of a $393.75 fee.

An­other ex­am­ple of licensing over­reach he cited was in New York City, where any-

one who watches a pet for money must have a ken­nel li­cense or risk a $1,000 fine for il­le­gal pet sit­ting. Also, users of Rover, a pop­u­lar Seat­tle­based ap­pli­ca­tion that matches up pet own­ers with paid pet watch­ers, are at risk be­cause of the city’s rules.

Neigh­bor­ing states can have much dif­fer­ent re­quire­ments for the same job, with no marked dif­fer­ence in pub­lic ben­e­fit. Acosta pointed to Ne­vada, which re­quires 100 hours of train­ing and licensing for op­ti­cians, who fit cus­tomers with glasses, based on pre­scrip­tions from op­tometrists and oph­thal­mol­o­gists. Next door in Utah, there are no licensing re­quire­ments.

“The ques­tion is: Is this bur­den re- ally jus­ti­fied?” he said.

A Fed­eral Re­serve Bank of Min­neapo­lis study es­ti­mates that licensing re­quire­ments are keep­ing 2 mil­lion peo­ple out of jobs, a num­ber equiv­a­lent to 1.3 per­cent of the la­bor force, Acosta said. He also cited an­other study from Brook­ings that puts lost em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties at closer to 3 mil­lion.

Even when oc­cu­pa­tional reg­u­la­tion makes sense, state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments could do more to stan­dard­ize and sim­plify re­quire­ments so li­censes will work across mul­ti­ple state lines with­out re­cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, Acosta ar­gued.

That would al­low peo­ple to use tech­nol­ogy to pro­vide ser­vices re­motely across state lines, as in telemedicine. It would also as­sist mil­i­tary and other fam­i­lies that have to move of­ten for work.

Associated Press file

La­bor Secretary Alexan­der Acosta, pic­tured on Capi­tol Hill in March, spoke in Den­ver on Fri­day.

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