The city's population has hit a milestone, soaring past 8.5 million people for the first time. NY1's Michael Scotto breaks down the new census numbers.

The Big Apple is bigger than ever.

The five boroughs added 55,211 people in the year that ended last July 1, an increase of 0.6 percent, bringing the city’s population to more than 8,550,405, according to an estimate released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

It's the first time in history that more than 8.5 million people have called the city home.

“It shows that we're a place that people want to be, want to come, want to stay, want to grow a family,” says Carl Weisbrod, chairman of the city’s Planning Commission.

The city's population has been on the upswing for some time. With the new numbers released Thursday, the city has grown by more than 375,000 people in just the last five years, an increase of 4.5% -- or more than the entire population of Pittsburgh.

For several years, Brooklyn led the five boroughs in population growth, but that changed last year.

According to the Census Bureau, Queens added the most number of people last year - 16,700. Brooklyn was a close second, at 16,015, followed by the Bronx (13,687), Manhattan (7,552) and Staten Island (1,257).

But the Bronx grew at the fastest rate. The population of the once-maligned borough expanded by 0.9 percent last year - the best of any county in the state. Queens grew by 0.71, followed by Brooklyn (0.6 percent), Manhattan (0.45 percent) and Staten Island (0.26 percent).

“I think that the Bronx is offering a lot more housing than it's offered in the past. I think the reduction in crime … has a lot to do with this,” Weisbrod said.

Driving the growth citywide last year: more people moved in than moved out, and there were more births than deaths.

“What's happened, and what I think really turned it around, and what's driving the population is the large number of births,” said Andrew Beveridge, a demographer and a professor of sociology at Queens College.

The city's growth rate last year was the slowest in a decade, but it still leaves the city as a demographic bright spot in the state. Upstate lost 16,596 people in the last year, a 0.24 percent decline, continuing a trend that has gone on for some time. 

“Except for Albany and Saratoga and one other county up north, there's really no growth at all. In fact, population loss in New York State,” Beveridge said.

The growth will inevitably put new strains on the city's infrastructure. But it's a relatively good problem to have, as the five boroughs continue to be the place where people want to live.