Steven M Berman, Mayor of Gilbert (Arizona)

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This is an archived article. 2005 data
US suburban cities grow strongly
while San Francisco shrinks
By Josh Fecht

Large suburban cities in western USA, led by Gilbert (Arizona), dominate the list of America’s fastest-growing cities, according to population estimates released by the US Commerce Department’s Census Bureau in July 2003. Between 1 April 2000 and 1 July 2002, Gilbert was the fastest growing of 242 cities with populations of more than 100,000. (Latest data)

In addition to the estimates for large cities, the US Census Bureau also released tabulations - for the first time since Census 2000 - for all of America’s 19,451 towns and cities, as well as its minor civil divisions. Cities with populations of 10,000 or more were ranked within their states.

Gilbert, south of Phoenix, grew by 23 per cent, to a total of 135,005 residents. Rounding out the top five fastest-growing large cities were North Las Vegas (18 per cent) and Henderson (17 per cent) in Nevada, and Chandler (14 per cent) and Peoria (13 per cent) in Arizona.

Gilbert, Chandler, and Peoria are in Maricopa County, Arizona, and all three cities were among the 10 fastest-growing from 1990 to 2000. North Las Vegas and Henderson are in Clark County, Nevada, and were also among the top five fastest-growing places in the 1990s.

While cities in Arizona, Nevada, and California dominated the list of fastest-growing places, Jolie Illinois, ranked 10th with an 11.4 per cent rate of growth.

The estimates show no change in the rankings of the 10 largest cities since Census 2000. Of the 10 largest cities, Phoenix (3.8 per cent) and San Antonio (3.7 per cent) grew the fastest from 2000 to 2002, followed by San Diego (3 per cent), Houston (2.9 per cent) and Los Angeles (2.8 per cent).

San Francisco, which has lost jobs and income when the technology bubble burst, saw the largest population decline of any major city in the United States in 2002.

The city’s population declined by 1.5 per cent or nearly 12,000 between April 2001 and July 2002, making it the biggest loser among 242 US cities with more than 100,000 people.

San Francisco, with a population of about 776,000 in mid-2002, joins some other US cities facing hard times, including Flint, Michigan, which ranked 240 on the list with a population decline of 1.4 per cent or 1,687 people, and Gary, Indiana, which came in at 227, losing 0.8 per cent of its population, or 793 people. San Francisco lost 11,929 residents over the same one-year period.

But the exodus from the San Francisco Bay Area appears more pronounced considering all the other surrounding cities that also suffered big population declines.

Second to last on the list was Sunnyvale, California, a Silicon Valley city about 50 miles south of San Francisco, and home to number of high-tech companies and high-tech workers, who were hit hard by the dot-com bust. Sunnyvale's population declined by 1.4 per cent, or 1,830 people, according to the US Census Bureau.

Other Silicon Valley cities with declining populations include San Jose and Daly City. San Jose lost more than 5,700 people while the population of Daly City declined by some 1,000 men and women.

Californian economists point out that hundreds of high-tech start-up companies based in northern California have closed their doors over the past three years, sending many people out of town in search of work.

California's Employment Development Department said San Francisco had a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 6.6 per cent in May, compared with a national rate of 6.1 per cent. The jobless rate in Santa Clara County, encompassing Sunnyvale and much of Silicon Valley, was 8 per cent.

This recent exodus is in stark contrast to trends in the 1990s when IT professionals headed to the Silicon Valley region seeking work at high-tech companies that offered generous compensation and stock option packages.

Although San Francisco has not ranked among the fastest growing cities at any time in recent history, it did show healthy expansion throughout the 1990s, with its population growing 7.3 per cent over the course of that decade.

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