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Turnaround in Drivers Seen as Economic Plus : Demographics: More are moving into Ventura County than leaving. It’s the first time in years. Population growth is also a hopeful sign.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

For the first time this decade, more licensed drivers are moving into Ventura County than moving out, a reflection of an improving local economy.

Thanks to thousands of migrants from Los Angeles County, this county had a net increase of 122 drivers in the fiscal year ending June 30, compared to a loss of 2,554 drivers just two years earlier, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Until 1989, Ventura County had posted a net gain every year since the DMV began keeping such records in 1971.

“It looks like we have a much healthier [economic] climate than we did even a year ago,” said county planner Steve Wood, who tracks growth trends. “What’s going on may be a slow process, but it will bring a long-term improvement.”

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Wood said he expects Ventura County’s growth to be back to its rapid pre-recession pace within three or four years.

Last year, in fact, the county’s population grew at the fastest rate since 1991, and for the first time in four years the pace of growth exceeded those of the region and the state.

The county also has 11,000 more jobs today than it had two years ago, Wood said, and 27,000 more employed workers. And the job growth is keeping workers here, he said.

DMV figures show that 31,166 licensed drivers moved to Ventura County in the 1994-95 fiscal year, barely exceeding the number who left.

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The county was especially popular with residents from its crowded neighbor to the south--with 5,108 more drivers moving here from Los Angeles County than moved there from Ventura County.

Recent months have also seen a sharp increase in residents moving here from the other 49 states--8,212 compared to 7,017 the year before and 6,493 in 1992-93.

Yet for the sixth straight year, more licensed drivers moved out of Ventura County to other states than moved here from outside California.

The DMV counted a loss of 11,193 local drivers to other states last fiscal year. And a department spokesman, repeating a warning that was released with the data, cautioned that those numbers could increase because of late reporting by some states.

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But the exodus to other states--principally Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Colorado--has slowed. The net loss of Ventura County residents to other states dropped 40% last fiscal year to 2,981.

The movement out of state, population experts say, reflects a lingering concern about crime and the economy as well as California’s plague of earthquakes, fires and riots.

Even with the number of licensed drivers at a virtual standoff last year, Ventura County grew by 11,500 residents, to 720,500. Officials attribute that 1.6% increase to foreign immigration and a relatively high birthrate.

And while overall growth is picking up, DMV figures show that the youngest drivers and those approaching retirement age continue their exodus from the county.

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Conversely, the county’s increase was larger than California’s overall among drivers age 30 to 44, due to the flood of young families moving here from Los Angeles County.

Ventura County’s net changes in licensed drivers, by age group:

* -557 for ages 18 to 24;

* +410 for ages 25 to 29;

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* +1,191 for ages 30 to 44;

* -1,010 for ages 45 to 64;

* -88 for ages 65-plus.

The figures show that while the county remains a popular destination for refugees from the Los Angeles Basin, it continues to lose residents to nearly all other areas of California.

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It gained 73 drivers from Santa Barbara County and 46 from San Mateo County, but lost 264 to San Diego County, 242 to Kern County, 174 to San Luis Obispo County, 142 to Santa Clara County, 109 to Alameda County, 93 to El Dorado County and 59 to Riverside County.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Ventura County Migration

The Department of Motor Vehicles keeps track of licensed drivers who move from one county to another and from California to other states. For the first time in this decade, Ventura County had a net increase in licensed drivers last fiscal year.

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*--*

1994-95 1993-94 1992-93 Moved in 31,166 32,635 28,093 Moved out 31,044 33,495 30,647 Net gain/loss +122 -860 -2,554

*--*


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