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The slowdown in the Israeli job market has become much worse in the fourth quarter. The number of open jobs has dropped drastically while the number of people losing their jobs has worsened this quarter, reports the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor.

For the first time in five years the number of people leaving jobs has outstripped the number finding jobs. This is being caused by a drop in the number of jobs created and a rise in the number of people losing their jobs. It encompasses the entire economy and all business sectors, affecting both large and small companies.

Ministry figures show that there have been between 23,000 and 27,400 available jobs on any given day this quarter, a 45 percent drop from the third quarter and a 57percent drop from the same period a year earlier.

The number of people finding new jobs has fallen so far this quarter by 12.5 percent, and the number of businesses reporting new hires fell to 28 percent, down from 33 percent in the third quarter.

The number of people leaving their jobs, whether because they were fired, retired or quit, is expected to rise in the last three months of this year by 152,000. This compares with 134,000 for the previous quarter.

More employers are pessimistic: They think they will be firing more than hiring, and unemployment rates look to rise at the start of 2009.