By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
April 20, 2009

Reflecting a strong 2008 in which its sales — if not its stock price — jumped sharply, Apple (AAPL) this week made its first appearance in the top 100 of the Fortune 500 since Steve Jobs’ return.

Apple became a Fortune 500 company in 1983, but it fell off Fortune magazine’s list of America’s 500 largest companies (ranked by revenue) in 1995, while Jobs was running NeXT.

Apple climbed back onto the list in 2005, eight years after Jobs’ return. It vaulted an impressive 32 spots this year to land at No. 71, thanks in part to the declining fortunes of some of the firms that were above it, but mostly to revenues that grew 35.3% to $32.479 billion in 2008.

Other companies made larger leaps — URS Corp. (URS) had the biggest, jumping 185 spots to No. 264 — but they were all considerably smaller than Apple. None landed in the Fortune 100.

The Fortune 500 issue is dated May 4 but was released this week online. The big news this year is that Exxon Mobil (XOM) displaced Wal-Mart (WMT) at the No. 1 spot.

Among Apple’s largest U.S. competitors, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) came in at No. 9, Dell (DELL) at No. 33 and Microsoft (MSFT) at No. 35.

See this year’s Fortune 500 here.

Below the fold: Apple’s ranking through the years.

Apple’s shifting position in the Fortune 500:

2009: 71

2008: 103

2007: 121

2006: 159

2005: 263

….

1995: 123

1994: 67

1993: 76

1992: 81

1991: 95

1990: 96

1989: 114

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