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Economy Is Looking Up, but Residents Still Moving Out

Some important economic indicators are pointing upward, it’s true, but one seldom-watched trend--a net outflow of rental trucks and trailers from Ventura County--indicates that the county’s economy hasn’t completely recovered from the recession.

Officials at companies that rent vehicles for moving household goods report that families moving out of the county substantially outnumber those arriving here, although the outflow isn’t as overwhelming as it was a couple of years ago.

Scott Brontsema, manager of U-Haul Co.'s Ventura center, says families leaving the county outnumber those moving in by a 60-40 margin. “A lot of our customers aren’t just leaving the county--they’re leaving the state,” he said. “Where are they headed? Usually, it’s Oregon, Las Vegas or Arizona.”

As for their reasons, “people don’t talk about it much,” Brontsema said. “But I get the feeling it’s more than just job problems. Sometimes a customer will say he’s fed up with the floods and earthquakes.”

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Statewide, U-Haul, which claims to be the nation’s largest company in its field, reports that more families moved into California than out last year, reversing a four-year trend.

Brontsema contends that doesn’t hold true here, and a competitor, Rich Kopp, manager of Rent-It Truck Rental Inc. in Ventura, agrees. “Only part of our business is renting trucks for household moves, but I’d say the ratio of customers leaving over those moving in is about 70-30.”

Larry Kennedy, manager of the state Employment Development Department’s Simi Valley office, doesn’t dispute the reports that more people are leaving Ventura County than arriving. But he questions the percentages. “I’ve seen utility company figures showing that the exodus is slowing down,” he said. “One company says the number of households disconnecting service is now only 2% more than those moving in.”

According to the EDD, there were 2,500 more people working in Ventura County in December than in December, 1993. The county’s jobless rate in December fell to 6.5% from 8.0% a year earlier. The latest rate is lower than that in Los Angeles County or the state as a whole.

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“Things are definitely looking up,” Kennedy said. “Employers are calling us with unsolicited work orders. A year ago, we had to go out and ask for orders.”

Twelve months ago, members of Kennedy’s so-called job club, made up mostly of laid-off aerospace and electronics workers, considered themselves lucky to land a one-month gig.

“Today,” Kennedy said, “many of the members are having to decide between two offers of full-time, permanent jobs. The opening may pay a third less than the person made before, but these people are happy. They’re going to have a reason to get up in the morning.”


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