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Demand for workers via the Employment Service soared to 25,400 in December 2005, compared with 17,800 in the same month of 2004. That translates into an increase of 43%.

Against the month before, November 2005, the December increase is 4.5%, said Esther Dominicini, general manager of the Employment Service.

Part of the increase is technical, she added: from December the service started handling foreign worker requests by hotels.

That said, the long-term trend looks positive. "From 2004, the number of workers required in the labor market has been increasing compared with the preceding four years," Dominicini said. Companies are hiring as they expand because of Israel's economic upswing, she added.

The biggest increases in December 2005 compared with the year before were in Tel Aviv, 3,592 people; Jerusalem, 1,992; Haifa, 1233; Beer Sheba, 1,217; Ashkelom, 963; Petah Tikva, 933; and Rishon Letzion, 881 people.

The sharpest increase was in Eilat, where demand climbed 1,315% year over year, including through hotels seeking foreign labor. In second place was the southern Sharon area, including Petah Tikva and Herzliya, where demand increased by 98.5%. In third place was Haifa, where demand increased by 97.2%.

In Tel Aviv demand increased by 48.1% and against the trend is the Jezreel Valley, where demand dropped by 8%.

Just over half, 52.4%, was for expert jobs, and the rest for unskilled labor.

Broken down by sector, demand for sales and services personnel grew the most in December versus the year before, by 78.9%. In second place was demand for academics, which increased by 53.6%. The only sector in which demand dropped, by 1.1%, was agricultural workers.