License to Work’s occupation and state rankings shuffled considerably between 2017 and 2022, as indicated in Tables 4–7 and in the State and Occupation Profiles. These shifts should be interpreted with caution. While our rankings provide a useful point-in-time snapshot for comparing the extent and magnitude of licensing burdens across occupations and states, at least two factors can cloud the picture when looking at changes in the rankings over time.
First, rankings are relative, so changes to a single occupation (or state) can affect how others rank, even if they did not change at all. For example, because psychiatric aide was entirely delicensed, it improved in Table 4 from the 14th most burdensome occupation on average to the 102nd, becoming the least burdensome. As a result, every occupation ranked as less burdensome in 2017—88 occupations in all—automatically shifted up a spot, appearing to be a bit more burdensome, regardless of whether or how their average requirements changed.
Similarly, in the state rankings, Utah improved by 36 spots for average burdens (Table 6) and by 12 spots in the combined ranking (Table 7), necessarily making many states look a bit worse regardless of how their average burdens or number of licenses did (or did not) change. Arkansas’ large improvements of 22 spots in burden rank and 6 spots in combined rank had a similar effect.
The rankings’ relative nature also means that occupations and states with reduced average burdens may not see the expected improvement in their ranks—or may even get worse—because others improved more. Wyoming, for instance, saw its burden ranking worsen 5 spots despite an improvement in the most heavily weighted burden category, days lost to education and experience. Although Wyoming reduced its average days lost by 13 days, other states made bigger improvements: not only Utah (366 days) and Arkansas (345 days) but also Missouri (58 days) and South Dakota (28 days).
Second, our burden rankings are based on averages among licensed states and occupations, so adding or removing licenses occasionally affects them in surprising ways. The clearest example is Michigan, whose burden rank worsened by 6 spots, tied for the largest such shift. For the most part, this shift resulted not from Michigan raising requirements (though it did for some occupations) but rather from its delicensing of two occupations—mobile home installers and residential painting contractors—with relatively light burdens. The somewhat heavier burdens that remain are averaged across fewer licenses, resulting in higher averages and a worse burden rank. The combined ranks, by contrast, account for the number of licenses, and on this ranking Michigan held steady.