Fortune’s annual America’s Most Admired Companies list is out Monday and Apple is No. 1 — up from No. 7 last year.

How was this determined? To quote the intro.:

To create the top 20, Fortune and its survey partners at Hay Group asked the experts — in this case, more than 3,700 people from dozens of industries — to select the 10 companies they admire most. This year’s winners all have strong records of innovation, leadership, and financial strength — and their employees know it.

There is much more about Apple AAPL in the issue, including Betsy Morris’ company profile “What Makes Apple Golden,” but the brief summary reads:

It is a tribute to its CEO that Apple, which ten years ago seemed headed for the slag heap, is No. 1 on this list. Steve Jobs has always had a knack for weaving magic out of silicon and software. But who knew he could build a $24 billion (in sales) company on the strength of a portable jukebox and a computer with a single-digit market share?

His pitch, as he leveraged the success of the iPod, was very simple: Apple products work, and if you buy more than one, they work better. The company (if not its stock) is on a tear, but even with the economy weakening, it will be interesting to see how economically sensitive this growth engine is. (link)