Downtown Cleveland - Cleveland Sunrise by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

As the Ohio General Assembly prepares to adjourn for the holidays, workers continue to be burdened by needless barriers to employment. With bills pending in both the House and Senate, legislators can remedy labor shortages by enacting laws recognizing out-of-state business licenses. 

The Ohio workforce is currently plagued by overbearing licensure regulations, pushing workers away, reducing the state’s capacity for production, and slowing its population growth. According to Mark Williams, a business reporter from The Columbus Dispatch, help-wanted ads have doubled in the last two years. “The state’s labor force participation started declining before COVID, worsened during the pandemic, and remains more than 100,000 workers below where it was pre-pandemic,” Williams explained. As employers struggle to find licensed workers, businesses are unable to keep up with demand, particularly during a period fraught with supply-chain shortages and pandemic-related setbacks. 

Re-licensing workers is also costly and time-consuming, as it requires both training time and government fees. According to a 2015 policy report from the Buckeye Institute, “the cost of hiring a licensed worker is 15% higher than an unlicensed worker with the same level of experience doing the same job.” These expenses and training hours are wasted on re-educating already qualified skilled workers while the Ohio economy continues to weaken. 

In a 2020 letter to the Ohio Senate, Grover Norquist urged lawmakers to approve legislation on occupational licensing reform. “Government should not place unnecessary barriers between workers and jobs,” Norquist wrote. “Making this transition more seamless for new residents will save countless hours by removing redundant regulatory hurdles. It will also make Ohio a more attractive state for workers with valuable skills, those starting new careers, and business owners.” 

Buckeye’s Greg Lawson found that 18 states recognize out-of-state licenses while Ohio ranks in the top 10 for outbound migration, costing the state three congressional seats in the last two decades. Lawson goes on, referencing a 2016 congressional testimony where AFL-CIO chair in labor policy Morris Kleiner and the former head of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors estimated that licensing laws had cost Ohio roughly 68,000 jobs. 

House Bill 203 and Senate Bill 131 aim to remove these harmful and excessive barriers to work and reinvigorate Ohio’s labor force. By passing these initiatives and enabling trained and educated workers to carry their licenses across state lines, lawmakers can begin to address this loss of production. Occupational licensing reform will allow Ohioans to provide for themselves and their families, open the door to outside skilled labor, mitigate population stagnation, and bolster the economy.