Laois is an inland county in the south Midlands with a population of 84,732 (Census 2016). The county experienced transformational population growth in recent years, especially in eastern parts. The east of the County, encompassing the large towns of Portlaoise and Portarlington, is increasingly under the influence of the Greater Dublin Area. Other areas, such as Rathdowney and its environs in the southwest, are predominantly rural and retain a strong connection with agriculture and rural life. The Slieve Bloom mountains in the northwest are sparsely populated and used for commercial forestry and recreation purposes. Carlow Town exerts influence over southeast Laois.
Portlaoise is the key urban centre in Laois. The town is home to 25% of Laois residents, 57% of Laois-based jobs are concentrated in Portlaoise (POWCAR 2014) and it provides the bulk of the retail, commercial and administrative services available in the County.
In line with national and regional trends, the largest employer in Laois, and the most important sector in terms of productivity, is the services sector, followed by manufacturing and construction. The important areas in employment terms for Laois are the public, wholesale/retail services, manufacturing (despite trend of decline) and farming.