THE LATEST report on the "State of Center City" shows that there is much to celebrate downtown.

It has the nation's third-largest number of employees working in its core central-business district at 264,878. Only New York and Chicago have a higher concentration of workers, according to the report, released Thursday by the Center City District.

And the population in both the core Center City area - from Vine to Pine streets - and what the district calls "Extended Center City" area - from Girard Avenue to Tasker - has grown rapidly in the last decade.

Center City's population grew by 16.3 percent in that period, making it the fastest growing and most densely settled section of the city.

The icing on the cake is that the core Center City residential population is also highly educated, said Paul Levy, executive director of the Center City District.

The report shows that nearly 70 percent of Center City residents over 25 have at least a four-year college degree, and nearly 40 percent also have a graduate or professional degree. That helps make the city very attractive to employers.

But, Levy said, there are many concerns that the city needs to address to rebound after the economic recession, including improving education - in a city where nearly half of public-school students fail to graduate from high school - and changing the city's tax structure to eliminate the business-privilege tax and begin reducing the wage tax.

" 'The State of Center City' celebrates success," Levy said. "But it also is candid about our need to build civic consensus for those tax changes and strategic infrastructure investments we must make in order for all of Philadelphia to thrive . . .. "

He said the city's denseness and walkability meant that Center City didn't suffer as much during the recession as other cities. However, the report notes that although jobs in the educational and medical fields, known as "eds and meds," have remained stable, the city has lost higher-paying office jobs.