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Sure, It's Hot, Schools Are Underfunded, but Phoenix Still No. 2 in Population Growth

Thousands of people continue to slouch toward Phoenix, year after year.

Phoenix posted the second-highest population growth in 2017, more than any other city except San Antonio, Texas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The means we keep our place as the fifth-largest city in the country (sorry, Philadelphia); the official population is more than 1,626,000.

It's hot, sure, and the K-12 education system is underfunded, but judging by the latest numbers, people are undeterred. The Census Bureau's 2017 population growth estimate, released on Thursday, showed that Phoenix gained approximately 24,036 people last year. That rapid growth puts Phoenix just behind San Antonio on the list of fastest-growing large cities – San Antonio added 24,200 people in 2017. So just another 165 new senior citizens would have made Phoenix No. 1.

The city's red-hot technology and biomedical sectors are a big draw, according to Eric Jay Toll, a spokesperson for Phoenix's community and economic development department. Phoenix has more than 285 technology companies with offices in the downtown area this year, compared to just 67 companies six years ago, Toll said.

"You’re literally looking at the economy of the Phoenix metro pivoting from construction, real estate, and retail into the advanced industries," he said.

Manufacturing in particular has been a bright spot for Phoenix, Toll explained, especially because the sector has remained flat nationwide. Small manufacturing enterprises that focus on precision parts for the automotive and technology industries have been responsible for driving much of Phoenix's manufacturing growth.

Toll contrasted these high-tech industries with the Rust Belt-style assembly-line jobs of yesteryear, where an employee might be wielding tools themselves as opposed to watching a robot arm assemble car parts. Plus, these new jobs pay substantially more, Toll said.

"Twenty years ago, you’d walk into a machine shop and you had people hunched over lathes with the goggles on," Toll said.

Phoenix added manufacturing jobs nearly every month for the past year and a half, according to the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity. "The data sets that have been coming out over the last six months are really pointing toward how strong the Valley is economically," Toll said.

The Census' growth estimates examined large cities that had populations of 50,000 or more. Many of the cities with the biggest gains are located in the Southwest, and three of the top five were in Texas.

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The 15 fastest-growing large cities, according to the U.S. Census Bureau:

1. San Antonio, Texas (24,208)
2. Phoenix, Arizona (24,036)
3. Dallas, Texas (18,935)
4. Fort Worth, Texas (18,664)
5. Los Angeles, California (18,643)

6. Seattle, Washington (17,490)
7. Charlotte, North Carolina (15,551)
8. Columbus, Ohio (15,429)
9. Frisco, Texas (13,470
10. Atlanta, Georgia (13,323)

11. San Diego, California (12,834)
12. Austin, Texas (12,515)
13. Jacksonville, Florida (11,169)
14. Irvine, California (11,068)
15. Henderson, Nevada (10,534)

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