Census: Philadelphia still bigger than Phoenix

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PHILADELPHIA -- U.S. Census figures released this week not only show that Philadelphia has grown in population for the first time in 50 years, they also confirm that the City of Brotherly Love is still the nation's fifth-largest city.

Government estimates four years ago had Phoenix surpassing Philadelphia in population.

The official 2010 count put Philadelphia's population at 1,526,006 - an increase of around 8,500 people, or 0.6 percent, from the 2000 census.

The statistics found Phoenix grew 9.4 percent from 2000 to big jump but less than half of what was forecast in 2007, when the Census Bureau issued estimates saying that Phoenix had bumped Philadelphia out of the No. 5 spot. Phoenix had 1,445,632 residents in 2010, up from 2000.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter was jubilant over the news, which he said provides a boost to civic psyche as well as valuable economic and political benefits.

Data from the official 2010 count will be used to redraw legislative boundaries and distribute hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid, and is valuable for city planners and entrepreneurs determining where to build schools, shops, hospitals and other amenities.

"We are back. Philadelphia is growing," Nutter said. The increase, though small, still represents "a precursor to a great future for our city," he said.

Demographers tracking Philadelphia's population attribute the change, among other factors, to a greater number of births than deaths and an increase of immigrants and empty nesters leaving the suburbs and moving to the city.

Meanwhile, census data from 2008 and 2009 provided early hints of growth slowdowns in once-booming metropolitan areas like Phoenix, due in large part to the housing collapse and a surge of mortgage foreclosures.

Spokeswomen for Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon didn't respond to calls and e-mails from The Associated Press seeking comment Friday.

Janey Pearl, senior assistant to Gordon, joked with the Philadelphia Daily News for a story Friday that "in homes and offices all around Phoenix, we gathered together holding our collective breath ... Alas, we fell short. The good news is, we consoled ourselves with yet another perfect, cloudless 80-degree day here in the Valley of the Sun. Enjoy those thunderstorms and high of 56, Philadelphians."

Philadelphia's population peaked in 1950 at just over 2 million. Every census from 1960 to 2000 showed population declines in the city.