Ireland now has the fastest growing population in Europe, according to the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office.

In the year to May 2004 the population grew by 2.2% or 87,000, and now stands at 4.13 million.

And for the first time ever, the number of people employed has exceeded two million.

The workforce grew by almost 5% last year to 2,014,800, as 94,500 more people became available for work.

Strongest employment growth was recorded in construction, financial and business services. There was a decline in agriculture, forestry and fishing.

The figures suggest that immigration, particularly from the 10 new EU accession states, has played a significant role in the growth of the population and labour force.

Total immigration in the year to May is estimated at 70,000 - the highest figure on record since the CSO began recording the figures in 1987.

Over a third of immigrants came from the 10 countries which joined the EU in May 2004.

A breakdown showed that 17% were from Poland, with 9% from Lithuania, while 24% came from outside the EU and US.

The number of emigrants in the period was 16,600, the lowest since current records began in 1987. The natural increase, the number of births minus deaths, was 33,500.