There was a sharp rise in the number of people who are unemployed between June and August of this year.

It was up 17,500 to almost 99,000, its highest level for four years, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The figures, released today, also show that the state's population is at its highest level for 132 years.

The total population of the Republic in April 2003 is estimated at 3.98m - the highest figure since 1871, when the census recorded a population of 4.05m.

The population increased by 61,700 (1.6%) compared with the 3.92m recorded in the 2002 census.

Net immigration, the balance between inward and outward migration, contributed 29,800 of the most recent annual increase, while births exceeded deaths by 31,900 in the same period.

The estimated number of immigrants in the year to April 2003 was 50,500 while emigrants numbered 20,700 in the same period.

Both flows were down compared with the previous 12-month period.

Immigration peaked at 66,900 in the 12 months to April 2002 and has since fallen back in the most recent period.

The excess of births over deaths has grown from 17,500 in the 12-month period ending April 1995 to 31,900 in the corresponding period to April 2003.

40% of emigrants went to countries other than the EU and the USA, while 45% of all immigrants originated from outside the EU and USA.