And tourist dollars continue to pour into the county, especially in the west county cities of Ojai, Oxnard and Ventura.
But it is the east county where the most dramatic rise has occurred.
A collection of recession-proof companies has made a home in the Conejo Valley, bolstering the east county economy with high-tech jobs and paychecks to match.
Led by Thousand Oaks-based biotechnology giant Amgen Inc., the east county is poised to become a critical biotechnology center, the equivalent of the Silicon Valley to the computer industry, economists and others agree.
Amgen, the world's largest biotechnology firm, reported revenue of $364 million, and profit of $93.5 million, for the first three months of this year. That translates to a 17% increase in revenue over the same period last year and a 14% increase in profit.
With more than 2,000 employees, Amgen is the county's second-largest private employer. And the Thousand Oaks City Council recently endorsed an expansion plan that will make room for 6,300 new workers at Amgen's corporate campus over the next quarter-century.
At the time, council members praised Amgen for bringing so many high-paying, non-polluting jobs into the community.
But Amgen's success has produced other benefits as well. A steady stream of smaller high-tech manufacturing plants have moved to the area in recent years. Baxter Healthcare Corp. is setting up its first large biotechnology manufacturing plant near Amgen's world headquarters.
Baxter, which manufactures a protein used to treat patients who suffer from the blood disease hemophilia, hopes to have hundreds of employees at the site by the middle of next year.
Johan Vandersande, Baxter's vice president of manufacturing, said he knows all too well the lure of Ventura County when trying to attract the best-qualified workers: Baxter's Los Angeles facility has lost plenty of good engineers to Amgen over the years.
"More people prefer to live in Thousand Oaks than Los Angeles. Can you guess why?" he said. "People like the ocean, it's not as crowded and it's a pretty safe community."
Other firms are also spilling over the line from Los Angeles into Ventura County.
Vacancy rates for commercial properties dropped in the first three months of this year, especially in the east county where many quake-rattled San Fernando Valley firms have come seeking refuge.
The east county also leads the way in retail spending, with Moorpark, Simi Valley and Thousands Oaks all showing gains over last year.
At the auto empire founded by formeS. Ambassador Robert D. Nesen in the Thousand Oaks Auto Mall, sales are the best they've been in years. They're so good, in fact, that Nesen recently added two new lines--Rolls-Royce and Bentley.
Although Nesen Motor Car Co. recorded more than $200 million in sales last year, Gary Nesen, now president of the firm, said the economic slump choked sales by forcing motorists to hang onto their old cars rather than buy new ones.
"For us, it was never a question of \o7 if\f7 the economy turns for the better, but \o7 when \f7 the economy turns for the better," he said. "I think things have turned to the positive. People eventually will have to buy new cars."
It is that eternal optimism that continues to draw people to Ventura County, and keeps them here when the going gets tough.
Although the sour economy produced the slowest growth rate in decades, employment officials say many displaced workers are choosing to stay put and hunt for local jobs.
Aerospace worker Thatcher, the Newbury Park resident who will be unemployed in August, declined an invitation to leave the state with his company. He has planted deep roots in Ventura County and has no desire to pull them up.
Evelyn Jeffries feels the same way. After 32 years in banking, she left her job to care for her ailing mother. Now, after five months of unemployment, the 51-year-old Thousand Oaks resident is ready to get back to work, but not anxious to relocate to do so.
On a recent morning, she showed up at the Thousand Oaks office of California Job Search looking for help preparing a new resume.
Company President Peter H. Wolf asked about her job skills.
"All there is is banking," she explained. "That's all I've done since I've been 24 or 25."
But Wolf poked and prodded, asking about management experience and other skills to help fill out her resume and make it more attractive to potential employers.
"It's very important that you position yourself for other industries," said Wolf, who for 10 years has matched employers with those eager to work. "You have to be able to transfer all of those skills because the banking industry isn't a great industry right now."
Indeed, few industries have been harder hit than banking. Four years ago, leaders of the county's two largest locally owned banks expressed little concern about the economic slump that was just starting to take hold.
Since then, both banks have incurred severe losses. And only recently have they begun to rebound.