The Ventura County Civic Alliance, an initiative of the Ventura County Community Foundation, has released its 2017 State of the Region report, an all-encompassing overview of the highs and lows of Ventura County.
The collection of statistics is an update from the 2015 report, adding several new categories, including “Cost of Childcare” and “Leading Causes of Death,” to name a couple, and was compiled by a team of independent researchers led by California Lutheran University Professor Jamshid Damooei, chair of the Department of Economics, Finance and Accounting, School of Management.
“Yes, there are some negative issues when we look at the economy in the sense that we’re growing slowly, but it’s positive that we’re growing at all. Some would say thank goodness we’re growing 1 percent,” said David Maron, chairman of the report committee for the Alliance. “Where others would say we’re only growing 1 percent, that’s not sustainable. Our job is to present the data and if they want to be positive or negative that’s their decision.”
First, the bad news.
Ventura County remains one of the least affordable places in Southern California and the nation according to the report, with only 30 percent of county households able to afford a median-priced home, which has risen over five straight years to $535,000 in 2016.
In 2015, it was reported that the industries that were hiring in the county were those that tended to pay the least, with six of the 10 most high-demand jobs paying either $9 or $10 an hour, including farm workers, retail sales and food service. Described as “anemic,” the county’s job outlook has not changed much, as service jobs are on the rise while “goods producing” jobs are decreasing.
Other than a prediction that by the end of 2017 the county will top the pre-recession non-farm related job numbers of 299,000 in 2006, the outlook is dire, with manufacturing jobs down 20 percent in 2015 from just 10 years prior, with the number of jobs in leisure and hospitality overtaking manufacturing.
For households with children, costs continue to increase.
A single parent living in Ventura County with two children to sustain them had to earn $31.97 per hour in 2015, up from $27.59 in 2013, according to the report. Worse, the report suggests that the cost of childcare can “dominate household spending.” Licensed care can be “extremely expensive,” as supported by the numbers: couples making 400 percent the poverty level (roughly $95,000) would need to spend 21.7 percent of their income on childcare; for families at the poverty level in 2016, paying for childcare is impossible, the authors say, as the average family would have to pay 65.8 percent of their income for care for one child, 104 percent for two.
The new category “Leading Causes of Death” lists the 10 most common causes of death in the county. Cancer leads the list, followed by heart disease and stroke. Alzheimer’s is the fourth leading cause of death in Ventura County, higher than its rank in the state and across the nation. Drug induced deaths at number five suggests a “serious issue,” according to the report.
It wasn’t all dire, however. The report also reflects the county’s agricultural bounty, with strawberries leading the way, worth $617.8 million in 2015, followed by $259 million worth of raspberries and $228 million worth of lemons.
Out of 15 of the largest populated counties in California, Ventura County has some of the safest cities in the state and the nation, and on top of that, Ventura County also has the cleanest ocean water in Southern California.
The report, a 124-page tome of numbers and graphs, paints a varied picture of Ventura County.
“Yes, it’s expensive to live here,” said Maron. “On the other hand, it’s a wonderful place to live and many people in other parts of the US would love to live here.”
To read the report, visit www.civicalliance.org/2017-state-of-the-region-report.