Philly is No. 5 (and there are big perks with it)

Well, Philadelphia, we’re back to one-hand status.

Thanks to new census figures, you can once again count on one hand where Philadelphia ranks among the country’s big cities. After speculation the last few years that the sunburn capitol of America’s desert, Phoenix, had overtaken our city as the fifth largest, official numbers released last week show the contrary.

It means a lot for civic pride and tourist dollars, city officials believe.

“Frankly, sixth is off the map. You only have five fingers,” said Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation President and CEO Meryl Levitz. “Getting back in the top five is something everyone can use in their marketing plan in how they position and present the city.”

Although Phoenix saw an increase of 9.4 percent from 2000, Philadelphia’s comparatively modest 0.6 percent gain was still enough to edge out Arizona’s metropolis, bringing the number of Philly residents to 1,526,006 versus Phoenix’s 1,445,632.

After 50 years of decline, the small shift represents a big reversal in population trends in Philadelphia and a shift in perception for a city long plagued by self-esteem issues.

“What it really is about is folks recognizing that this city is moving in the right direction,” Mayor Michael Nutter told reporters at a press conference touting the growth. “It’s a tremendous boost to our civic pride and a reaffirmation of many of the things we’re doing here in the city.”

Census bureau officials announced in 2007 that Phoenix eclipsed Philadelphia in size. It is unclear if these figures were overestimated or if Phoenix did become the fifth largest city for a brief time. Phoenix’s 2010 population increase is less than half of that previously forecast.

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