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The economy appears to be improving: Unemployment is continuing to drop, and industrial production is continuing to grow, the Central Bureau of Statistics announced yesterday.

Both are important measures of economic health.

Unemployment in May dropped to 6.5% of the workforce, or 194,000 people. This gives Israel one of the lowest unemployment rates in the Western world.

Unemployment here has been creeping downward all year: It was 6.6% in March, 6.8% in February and 7.1% in January.

These figures are all seasonally adjusted.

Unemployment peaked at 7.8% in May and June of last year, and has declined steadily since.

The bureau's statistics are consistent with data from the government's employment service, which also has reported a slight drop in the number of job seekers in recent months.

In addition, industrial production grew at an annualized rate of 10.8% between March and May. This joins a 13.7% increase over the preceding three months.

High-tech production grew at a 20% annualized pace over the March-May period, on top of a 14.6% increase in the preceding period.

The number of jobs in industry increased by 4.2% between March and May, while the number of high-tech employees rose by 6%.

The Bank of Israel released another positive figure yesterday: The State-of-the-Economy Index increased by a moderate 0.1% in June, it announced.

While this isn't a large change, it comes on top of increases in previous months, and indicates that Israeli economic activity is slowly expanding, the bank's research division said.

The slight economic expansion is one factor that helped improve the other indicators - unemployment and industrial production - they noted.