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San Jose no longer in top 10 most populous U.S. cities

Silicon Valley logo Silicon Valley 5/18/2023 Gabriel Greschler, Silicon Valley, San Jose, Calif.

May 18—America's tech capital has lost one of its major bragging rights.

San Jose has officially dropped out of the top 10 most populous cities in the country, according to the newest data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The South Bay city has shed some 50,000 residents since before the pandemic, placing it squarely in 12th place — with 971,233 people living in its city limits. Austin has taken over the 10th spot with about 3,000 more residents, followed by Jacksonville, Fla., at No. 11. The data, released this week, represents population estimates as of July 1, 2022.

San Jose's drop in population is in line with a larger trend across California cities which experts blame on a lack of affordable housing and work-from-home trends, and could actually be deeper than the Census figures show, according to data released by the state Finance Department earlier this month that tracked population from January 2022 to January 2023.

In an interview on Thursday, Mayor Matt Mahan said it is imperative for the city to become a financially feasible place to settle.

"I think this is a wake-up call," said Mayor Matt Mahan about the city's new 12th-place title. "People are frustrated with a host of challenges that we've struggled to get a handle on. I sincerely hope that this shakes our elected representatives out of their complacency. The status quo is not working."

The new census data reveals that much of the country's population growth between 2021 and 2022 is now concentrated in the South, with cities in Texas and Florida dominating the charts. For cities with over 50,000 residents, Georgetown, Texas boasted the highest increase, though Santa Cruz came in second, bringing in roughly 7,000 people — a 12.5% increase. The new figures also show that despite California having the largest amount of housing units in the country — 14.6 million — Utah, Idaho and Texas are leading in the construction of new homes.

The population trend in San Jose was already on the downswing before the pandemic, with a peak in 2017 at 1,032,000. The South Bay's largest city did not see as dramatic a drop as San Francisco did, which lost 73,000 people since 2019, ending up with about 808,000 in 2022. Both of the cities are going against broader trends across American cities — over two-thirds of the 384 U.S. metro areas saw growth between 2021 and 2022.

San Jose first got in the top 10 list of largest cities back in 2005 when it replaced the city of Detroit, sparking a headline in The Mercury News that read, "In the Big Time".

Then-Mayor Ron Gonzalez said at the time that it put the city in "a very distinguished class." Today, he said he isn't surprised about the direction of San Jose's population because of the economic pressures squeezing residents.

"I'm not all shook up about it," he said. "We're still within a stone's throw of number 10 and number 11."

Russell Hancock, president and CEO of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, a San Jose-based think tank, pushed back on viewing the population change as a horserace.

"It gave people a lot of civic pride to say we're the 10th largest," said Hancock. "So for whatever it is worth, we lost that. But this is not a contest. There is no prize for the largest city."

Hancock, whose organization tracks economic and demographic trends in the region, pegged the population drop to a variety of factors, including the high cost of living, other cities becoming mini-Silicon Valleys and a declining trend in the birthrate that's impacting the entire country.

But he's still got hope for the 12th largest city: "I think Silicon Valley is on the cusp of another takeoff with artificial intelligence. In five years, I wouldn't be surprised if we're number 10 again."

This is a developing story and will be updated.

(c)2023 Silicon Valley, San Jose, Calif. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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