Licensing Makes It Harder to Go Where the Jobs Are

Virginia Postrel:

This has driven economic development since the 19th century. It encouraged mass production, national distribution and labor mobility.

That calculus is changing as services, from home repair to hospitality to health care, make up a bigger chunk of personal spending and a higher proportion of jobs. You can still build a successful enterprise that spreads costs over a huge customer base — see Inc. or Alphabet Inc. (Google) — but many of today’s service jobs are done directly for consumers. They’re in-person and inherently local. Physical therapists and personal trainers can’t telecommute. That makes where people live all the more important to their incomes.

Economists worry that Americans are not moving to where their skills are most in demand. Migration rates have been dropping since the 1980s. The states with the highest incomes also used to have the fastest-growing populations, as Americans moved to places with better jobs. That’s no longer the case. Workers seem stuck.