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How many Israelis are expected to lose their jobs in 2009? It depends on whom you ask.

The International Monetary Fund published a report recently predicting only about 4,000 such job losses, and a rise in unemployment from 6% to 6.2% next year. However, the Histadrut labor federation and the Chambers of Commerce are talking about much bigger numbers, even up to 60,000 new jobless. Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini expects 10,000 public employees to lose their jobs at the beginning of 2009, and about an equal number in industry and services, due to the global economic crisis. The Manufacturers Association is talking about 30,000-40,000 more unemployed.

And it was the Israel Chambers of Commerce, also a party with an interest in making the figures look worse, came up with the 60,000 number. The president of the Chambers of Commerce, Uriel Lynn, blames the banks. In his best-case scenario, only 19,000 would lose their jobs, an increase of 1%. However, if the banks make their credit-granting criteria tighter for companies and businesses, he expects a 2% rise in umemployment. Lynn's third scenario has one or more Israeli banks in trouble - and 60,000 more unemployed.