Did unemployment rise or fall in August? The question is an easy one. The answer, however, is not: It depends which Central Bureau of Statistics announcement you read.

The bureau says the latest figures are the most accurate.

A month ago the agency issued revised data on joblessness. They matched announcements from previous months showing a steady drop in unemployment since January, when it was 6.1%, followed by 5.9% in February, 5.8% in March, 5.6% in April, 5.5% in May and 5.4% in both June and July. Fine so far.

Yesterday the Central Bureau of Statistics issued completely different figures. It now says unemployment was 6.0% in February (not 5.9% ), 5.9% in March (not 5.8% ), 5.8% in April (not 5.6% ), rising to 5.7% in May and staying there in June and July (not 5.5% in May and 5.4% in June and July ).

in August, the agency said yesterday, unemployment fell to 5.6%. According to the announcement from September, unemployment rose in August.

The bureau explained that the monthly figures are estimates, calculated as one third of the quarterly samples, and therefore might be less accurate than the quarterly figures. The most recent announcement is the most accurate, it stressed.

So to sum up, unemployment fell to 5.6% in August from 5.7% in July, and there you have it. In other statistics, a 5.7% unemployment rate translates into 176,900 jobless.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, who was presumably unaware of the confusion surrounding the August numbers, said the decline in unemployment shows the success of the government's economic policy.

"But as the global crisis worsens and the European economy crashes, we will have to work very hard to preserve the achievements of the Israeli economy in the future," Steinitz added.