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News Release

U.S. Secretary of Labor Acosta Addresses Occupational Licensing Reform

DENVER –Today, U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta encouraged state legislators to engage in principled reforms to help American workers. In his remarks at the 44th Annual Meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, he discussed how occupational licensing has created excessive barriers for the American workforce.

Excerpts from his remarks are below:

Secretary Acosta speaking at the 44th Annual Meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council.


I am here to share a few thoughts on the world’s greatest workforce -- the American workforce.

As state legislators, you have an incredibly important job. 

State and local governments profoundly impact Americans’ daily lives.

You set the tone. 

You stand for the principle of limited government that protects our liberty.

You believe in the power of free markets to raise the economic standing of individuals. 

You believe that government should be efficient, effective, and accountable to the people. 

You have an important perspective.  State and local voices must be considered in any regulatory proposal at the federal level.  The Department of Labor welcomes your input as we reconsider rules in the coming years.


The growth of occupational licensing is part of a nationwide trend where we regulate, and regulate, and regulate. 

In 1950, the Code of Federal Regulations ran about 10,000 pages long.  Today it has ballooned to more than 180,000 pages.

In 1950, only about 1 in 20 jobs required a license.  Today, more than 1 in 4 Americans need a license to legally perform their work.

Granted, many licenses have valid reasons, particularly when they focus on health and safety. Certifying skills and specialized knowledge helps consumers.

That is far different, however, from using licensing to limit competition, bar entry, or create a privileged class.

Excess licensing hinders the American workforce.

First, the cost and complexity of licensing creates an economic barrier for Americans seeking a job, especially for those with fewer financial resources.

Second, excessive licensing creates a barrier for Americans that move from state to state.     

Third, excessive licensing creates a barrier for Americans looking to leverage technology and to expand their job opportunities. 


Taking up this issue is one way that you, as legislators, can have immediate, consequential and measurable impact.

You have a tremendous opportunity to help create millions of jobs, without spending a dime.   

The Trump administration is committed to working with you to strengthen our economy and empower the American workforce. 

Americans want principled, broad-based reform. 

If licenses are unnecessary, eliminate them. 

If they are needed, streamline them. 

And, if they are honored by one state, consider honoring them in your own state. 

Americans looking to enter the workforce deserve no less than our most ardent efforts to remove regulatory barriers so that they can have a job.

Office of Public Affairs
July 21, 2017
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Media Contact: Jillian Rogers
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