Fresno becomes California's fifth-largest city

FRESNO, Calif. -- This might finally stop the small-town jokes: Fresno has replaced Long Beach as the state's fifth-largest city, according to state figures made public Thursday.

Despite housing and economic woes, the Central Valley's largest city added 10,578 people in 2008, bringing its population to 495,913. Fresno trails fourth-place San Francisco by almost 350,000 people.

"It gives us credibility. It gives us more stature," said Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin. "I think it also helps us realize here at the local level that we are evolving. We are maturing as a city."

But the region is also in the midst of a job crisis, with unemployment rates in parts of the Valley nearing 20%. The population boom will only make the job market worse -- unless the region finds a way to fix its longstanding economic woes, warned Fresno-based economist Joseph Penbera.

"There's a heck of a lot of young people in the Central Valley," he said. "Where are they going to get jobs?"

Los Angeles, with more than 4 million people, is easily the state's largest city, followed by San Diego, 1.35 million, and San Jose, 1 million, according to state Department of Finance statistics.

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