More than a quarter of all the people signing on at social welfare offices across the midlands live in Laois, according to the latest official figures
Central Statistics Office published last week revealed that almost 8,600 people were signing on at offices in Portlaoise, Mountmellick in Rathdowney. The total signing on in Laois, Longford, Offaly and Westmeath is more than 33,000.
During 2011 the number on the live register in Laois fluctuated and is now marginally higher than it was last January, and is again on the increase.
August was the worst month in with nearly 9,000 claiming some sort of benefit. While it fell back to below 8,400 in October, the figure rose by almost 200 in December.
Portlaoise was the busiest of the three offices with just over 4,000 signing on. In Portarlington, which also serves Mountmellick, there were almost 3,400 people on the register. Nearly 1,140 were registered at the Rathdowney office.
Westmeath, with more than 10,000, is the worst hit of the midland counties.
The live register includes the unemployed, part time workers and others not working.