More than 200 people moved abroad every day during 2012, new figures reveal.
The exodus has slowed the baby boom of recent years, but has done little to reduce unemployment levels.
Among the most likely to leave are young professionals who see better prospects in Britain, Australia or Canada.
Three times as many people left in the first quarter of 2012 as in the Tiger years, when many young people saw a year travelling as a rite of passage.
Some 87,000 people emigrated in the year to April 2012.
Almost 16,000 headed to Britain, according to figures from the UK Department of Work and Pensions.
Australia remained a big draw, with the number of permanent migrants soaring by 33pc to 4,938 in a year.
Some 4,564 Irish people received work visas for New Zealand in the 2011-12 tax year, up 40pc on four years ago.
And the outflow looks set to continue as another 2,199 Irish citizens were granted work visas to New Zealand between July 1 and December 1.
Canada's booming economy made it one of the hotspots of Irish emigration in the past few years and the rush west will continue in the New Year as a fresh round of visas is opened for skilled tradespeople in the building sector.
Some 5,293 temporary work visas were issued to Irish people last year, up 42pc on 2010.
Some 17,143 Irish people and their families were granted temporary work permits to the US, while another 1,533 obtained permanent resident status, according to the US Office of Immigration Statistics for 2011.
Those figures were up from about 14,000 the previous year.
Central Statistics Office figures show that, of the 87,000 who left Ireland in the 12 months to April 2012, 46,500 were Irish nationals.
Official figures also show the wave of emigration is taking its toll on the Irish birth rate.
There were 1,200 fewer births in 2011 than the previous year, as there were fewer women to have babies.
Professor Michael Turner of UCD Centre for Human Reproduction said the fact that many women in their twenties and thirties were leaving Ireland was having a noticeable effect.