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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 percent.

Against the month before, November 2005, the December increase is 4.5 percent, reported Esther Dominicini, general manager of the state-run 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 - 592 people; Jerusalem - 992; Haifa - 233; Be'er Sheva - 1,217; Ashkelon - 963; Petah Tikva - 933 and Rishon Letzion - 881 people.

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

In Tel Aviv demand increased by 48.1 percent; against the trend is the Jezreel Valley, where demand for workers dropped by 8 percent.

Just over half of all demand - 52.4 percent - was for skilled jobs, and the rest for unskilled labor, the service reported.

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