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Unemployment figures once again showed a small improvement: In the first quarter of 2007 the unemployment rate was down another 0.1 percent to 7.7 percent. In the fourth quarter of 2006, it had been 7.8 percent.

The number of unemployed persons, defined as those who did not work even a single hour in any given week, but are actively looking for work, was 221,000, according to figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) yesterday.

Unemployment for women during Q1 was higher than for men: 8.4 percent as compared to 6.1 percent. The number of employed reached 2.643 million during that period - an increase of 33,000 over the last quarter of 2006.

Another example of the improving economic situation is that the number of those who are employed part time and seek full-time employment, but have not found it, dropped by 7.9 percent to 107,900 workers.

The region with the lowest participation in the work force is Jerusalem: Only 45.7 percent of the population in the region actively worked in the last quarter. In comparison, the Tel Aviv and central regions of the country had the highest participation: 61.3 and 62.4 percent, respectively. Unemployment in the two regions was also the lowest: 6.1 and 6.6 percent, respectively.

The biggest improvement in employment in Q1 was in retail and wholesale trade, with an additional 14,800 jobs added in the quarter - a 4.8 percent increase.

Also, the average number of weekly hours that people worked rose to 36.9, as compared to 36.8 in the last quarter of 2006.