Business in Brief

Unemployment remains unchanged at 7.9 percent in April for fifth month in a row

Has unemployment stopped declining? Data shows the rate of joblessness remained 7.9 percent of the workforce in April 2007, same as it was the month before and the first quarter, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported yesterday. The bureau defines "unemployed" as having not worked more than an hour during the week of record, and having actively sought work for the four preceding weeks, whether by signing up at an employment office or by contacting prospective employers, and having been able to begin work that week, had a job been offered. Israel?s unemployment rate has been declining for three years, from a high of 10.9 percent in the first quarter of 2004 to 9.6 percent in December 2004. During 2005 unemployment continued to drop, falling to 8.9 percent in June-November 2005, but it inched up to 9 percent in the first quarter of 2006. From December 2006 to April 2007, unemployment was 7.9 percent. (Ido Solomon)

Citrus exports jump 23% in 2006

The Plants Production and Marketing Board reported a sharp increase of 23 percent in 2006 citrus exports on Monday. Citrus exports reached half a billion shekels last year. A substantial part of the increase is attributed to a cold snap that decimated citrus crops in California, one of the largest exporters in the world. The problems in California allowed Israeli exporters to extend their hold in Japan and penetrate the Chinese market for the first time. The director of the citrus sector at the Plants Board, Tal Amit, says the break into the Chinese market projects huge potential for exports in the short term, to 200,000 tons annually from the 141,000 tons exported in 2006. (Amiram Cohen)

Transport minister: El Al to be compensated for surrendering its monopoly

El Al is expected to surrender its monopoly on designated flight routes in return for additional government funding totaling $25 million a year, Minister of Transportation Shaul Mofaz said yesterday during his visit at the Paris Air Show. Under the agreement now being formulated by Transportation Ministry Director General Gideon Siterman together with the Finance Ministry and the airline, he explained, the state would give the airline $75 million annually to cover security outlays, up from $50 million currently. Siterman said that a decision can be expected within two weeks. He noted that the cost of airline security measures demanded by the Shin Bet security service reaches $100 million annually, mostly borne by El Al, as Israir maintains only a small fleet. Mofaz and Siterman estimated that forcing El Al to compete with another Israeli airline on certain routes, on top of competition with European airlines, would dramatically reduce ticket prices. Mofaz also said that he had decided to act against illegal radio stations and on Thursday the ministry will make an official decision on how to proceed in the matter. He explained that pirate radio stations endangers flight safety, and he plans to fight. (Ora Coren)