According to Department of Licensing numbers, 2014 saw the biggest migration to the area ever.

Share story

It’s official: Amazon boom beats Microsoft boom.

In 2014, King County smashed a 24-year-old record for the number of newcomers — and we’re on pace to set a record again in 2015.

Some 64,376 people from out of state were issued driver’s licenses in King County last year, according to records from the Washington Department of Licensing. Previously, 1990 held the title as the peak year for movers to King County. In that year, at the height of the Microsoft boom, the DOL tallied 57,437 newcomers to the county from out of state.

The single-month record was also set last August, when 7,516 new county residents were issued licenses.

But don’t expect any of those records to last very long, because 2015 is off to the fastest start of any year yet. In January and February, 10,616 out-of-staters have been issued licenses in King County, narrowly edging out the previous high of 10,128 set in 1998.

The Washington Department of Licensing began recording data on new drivers from out of state in July 1982.

Looking at the numbers for new drivers over the decades, you can see the patterns of boom and bust that have always marked our region.

In the early 1980s, Seattle hadn’t shaken off the throes of the “Boeing Bust” downturn of the previous decade; fewer than 25,000 newcomer licenses were issued per year through 1985.

That turned around in a hurry as Seattle became a technology center, with Microsoft leading the way. In 1990, the number of licenses issued to new residents was more than double that of 1986.

The early 1990s recession, the dot-com boom and subsequent bust, and the most recent economic bubble of the mid-2000s are also clearly reflected in the DOL numbers.

Interestingly, despite the magnitude of our most recent recession, only 2009 saw a real dip in migration to King County. By 2010, we were nearing record territory again. Each year since then has ranked in the top 10.

When it comes to supplying King County with expats, California is, eternally, No. 1 — and by a wide margin.

No surprise there, but did you know about the Texas surge? In 2011, for the first time, more Texans than Oregonians relocated to King County. Since then, Texas has remained firmly in second place behind California. In 2014, 4,055 Texans moved here, nearly double the number from 1999.

Other states with the sharpest increases since 1999 are Florida, North and South Carolina, and Georgia. The states with the smallest increases are Hawaii, Oregon and Idaho. Alaska and Montana are the only states with declines since 1999.

Speaking of surprises, so far this year, India has crashed the top-10 list of “states” feeding into King County.