NEW ORLEANS -- Population-wise, New Orleans is the comeback city of the country.
Forbes Magazine just ranked the Big Easy the fastest growing city in America since 2007.
It had a long way to go after losing more than half its nearly 500,000 residents after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.
Forbes credits two things for the city's rapid growth, a partial rebound effect and what is called a "striking economic revival."
"The thing that brings most people from one region to another is job growth," said Allison Plyer, director of the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center. "So, people can't return unless there are jobs for them to come to."
"In 2007, we were really getting into our quote, recovery and return mode, post-Katrina," said New Orleans demographer Greg Rigamer. "So, it is fully understandable that we would have an accelerated rate of growth. Clearly, more residents are returning than new people. There isn't any doubt about that."
According to Forbes, New Orleans grew 28 percent to 370,00 residents in the past five years. That's about 80 percent of the city's pre-Katrina population.
"We are seeing economic growth in multiple areas in our community, primarily fueled by the investments that have been made post-Katrina," said Rigamer.
Young professionals, 18 to 34, are the fastest growing segment in New Orleans. But studies show that the middle demographic, 35 to 50, is actually on the decline in the city.
"Insuring that our schools continue to improve, addressing the crime issue, these are going to be fundamental to ensuring that we grow not only at the top and bottom end of the demographic spectrum, but also in the middle," said Michael Hecht, president and CEO of the economic development group Greater New Orleans, Inc.
There is now expected to be another wave of people flocking to New Orleans when the new University and Veterans Administration Hospitals open over the next few years in the city's emerging Bio-Medical Corridor.
"We're trending in the right direction," said Hecht. "What's happening here is not just a population rebound that was going to happen, regardless. But people are voting with their feet because of the opportunity that you have in the new, New Orleans."
"I think you will see a lot of job opportunity at a high level, a high salary," said Rigamer. "You'll see people coming to fill those jobs."
"The Bio-Medical Corridor certainly could attract more people from the suburban areas," said Plyer. "That's part of creating those amenities that make the city the attractive place to live rather than the suburbs."
Forbes list of fastest growing cities also includes: Chula Vista and Irvine, California; Charlotte, North Carolina; Bakersfield, California; Fort Worth, Irving and Laredo, Texas; Greensboro, North Carolina and Austin, Texas.