News: CJ Exclusives

N.C. retains onerous occupational licensing burden, study says

North Carolina has some of the country’s broadest and most onerous licensing laws, resulting in a ranking of 17th-worst, a new report says.

The second edition of the Institute for Justice’s License to Work study looks at the occupational licensing laws of 102 lower-income jobs across the United States.

North Carolina ranks 41st for the most burdensome licensing laws. But because it licenses 67 of the 102 lower-income jobs surveyed, North Carolina jumps to the nation’s 17th most onerously licensed state.

North Carolina — on average — requires $199 in fees, 234 days of education and experience, and about one exam to enter into a number of job fields. Barbers, sign language interpreters, cosmetologists, opticians, and athletic trainers are just a few of the jobs requiring licenses.

A number of jobs regulated by occupational licensing aren’t even strongly connected to public safety, as IJ notes. Becoming a barber in North Carolina requires $270 in fees, 722 days for education and experience, and three separate exams. On the other hand, EMTs require only 43 days — 166 hours of education and 24 hours of experience — and two exams to become licensed.

Jon Sanders, director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, says occupational licensing laws typically hit lower-income communities the hardest.

“Entrepreneurship is more valuable in low-income communities because economic opportunities are scarcer,” Sanders said. “State licensing stands in the way of more entrepreneurship and renders low-income communities poorer than they ought to be.”

Organizations such as JLF and IJ continue to advocate for occupational licensing reform. These reforms include repealing unnecessary licenses, scaling back licensing requirements, and implementing less-restrictive alternatives. Consumer reports, voluntary certification, and voluntary bonding or insurance are possible alternatives to occupational licensing, and they could provide the same consumer protection.

“States are beginning to revisit how, when, and how strictly they regulate occupations,” Sanders said. “It’s a movement North Carolina needs to join.”

IJ’s Dick Carpenter II, director of strategic research; Lisa Knepper, director of strategic research; Kyle Sweetland, researcher; and Jennifer McDonald, research analyst, authored the study.