The federal government’s unemployment figures show the labor market is still unsettled. With the mismatch between joblessness and job openings continuing, the question of how to close that gap is gaining more urgency.

One solution to consider: ditching the job-killing licensing regulations that intentionally limit employment opportunities. As Christopher Bates writes in The Hill, reforming the licensing regime would have the additional benefit of reducing crime:

…even when a formerly incarcerated individual has the necessary skills, and an employer is interested in hiring the person, there is yet another barrier that can place the job out of reach — occupational licensing requirements. These are limitations imposed by statute or by a state or local licensing board that require any person working in a particular field to meet certain education, training, or other requirements.

Licensing requirements for some jobs makes obvious sense. Emergency medical technicians, for example, provide emergency medical care in life-or-death situations. Ensuring they have adequate training and experience is a no-brainer. All fifty states require EMTs to be licensed.

But most make no sense at all:

Thirty-seven states require hair shampooers to have a license. Ten license furniture upholsterers. One state — Louisiana — even requires florists to have a license. Why it should be necessary for workers in these fields to pass a state licensing exam, or satisfy certain education or training requirements, rather than simply persuade their employer or customer that they’re up to the job is unclear. The mere existence of such restrictions constricts the labor market and makes it more difficult for formerly incarcerated individuals to find stable employment.

Even more problematic, many licensing boards disqualify individuals with a criminal conviction from eligibility altogether.

Licensing is akin to a closed union shop: No card, no work. That’s bad for entrepreneurs looking to build a better future for themselves, or ex-cons looking to become full members of society again. Pull the barriers down – and let a free market in labor thrive.