Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill rolling back child labor laws in response to business owner complaints over labor shortages. Iowa's unemployment rate was under 3% last month.

DAVENPORT, IOWA - OCTOBER 31: Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at a campaign event for Senate candidate Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) at Dahl Auto Museum as part of Ernst's RV tour of Iowa on October 31, 2020 in Davenport, Iowa. Republican incumbent Ernst is in a tight race with Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield in the upcoming general election on November 3rd. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at a campaign event for Senate candidate Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) at Dahl Auto Museum as part of Ernst's RV tour of Iowa on October 31, 2020 in Davenport, Iowa.Mario Tama/Getty Images
  • Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law a bill rolling back child labor protections.

  • Under the new law, 14-year-olds can work in manufacturing and older teens can serve alcohol at night.

  • The bill is one of many targeting child labor laws across the nation, signed largely by GOP governors.

Iowa has become the latest state to roll back child labor protections, with Republican Governor Kim Reynolds on Friday signing into law a new bill allowing Iowa teenagers to work more jobs for longer hours.

Under the new law, 14- and 15-year-olds may now hold jobs that require them to participate in "light" manufacturing (without machinery) and 16- and 17-year-old teens may serve alcohol as late as 11 p.m. on summer nights with a parent's consent, Insider previously reported.

"With this legislation Iowa joins 20 other states in providing tailored, common sense labor provisions that allow young adults to develop their skills in the workforce," ABC News reported Reynolds said in a statement.

The Des Moines Register reported Rep. Dave Deyoe, the bill's sponsor in the House, said youth employment leads to "less poverty, money for future education, less delinquent behavior, experience in the workplace and access to mentors and role models, and finally, access to careers that may mean a more successful future."

However, the outlet reported the US Department of Labor's top lawyer, Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda, last month criticized bills like Iowa's, calling it "irresponsible for states to consider loosening child labor protections."

Vox reported GOP lawmakers say such laws create "a simple solution" to workforce staffing issues. Businesses have increasingly reported labor shortages since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed over 1,127,000 Americans since 2020, according to the World Health Organization.

The bill is one of ten tracked across the nation by the Economic Policy Institute in the past two years that have been either introduced or enacted, targeting minimum ages for certain jobs, how many hours minors are allowed to work, and which industries they're allowed to work in.

The Governors of Iowa, Arkansas, New Hampshire, and New Jersey have each passed measures introduced in their respective states. Of those, only New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is a Democrat.

Representatives for Gov. Reynolds did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

The Iowa Governor's decision to roll back child labor laws is an apparent response to business owners who say they cannot find enough workers. Iowa's April unemployment rate was 2.7%, local outlet KUAZ reported.

Arkansas' unemployment rate was 2.8%, New Hampshire's was 2.1%, and New Jersey's was 3.5% — the only state that has recently rolled back child labor protections with a higher average than the nationwide 3.4% unemployment rate.

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