According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, unemployment is on the rise, and the number of unemployed in February was the highest in the state's history at 260,000 people. It would be more correct to measure this as a percentage of the labor force, and that stood at 10.3 percent in February - not the highest in our annals, but not far off.
In 1967, the great year of depression, unemployment reached 10.4 percent, and then there was no unemployment benefit or "income guarantee," so someone who didn't work had to go to the assistance office and live on pennies. The economy emerged from the recession and unemployment after the great victory of the Six Day War, which brought euphoria in its wake, leading to economic prosperity.
In 1992, unemployment reached its all-time peak. Standing at 11.2 percent, the reason was a "good" one; the influx of 200,000 new immigrants (compared to 50,000 today). Within a short time, the new immigrants were absorbed into the workforce, unemployment fell to a welcome low of 6.7 percent in 1996 while the economy grew - fruits of the agreement with the Palestinians in September 1993.
Today, no one believes that a quick war of six days is at all possible, and there are no immigrants to "blame" for the rise in unemployment. So everyone understands that unemployment is here to stay, and will get worse as long as there is no political solution with the Palestinians.
Contrary to those figures, the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry published its figures yesterday that showed a drop in the numbers of those seeking work in March. Minister Shlomo Benizri attributed the fall to the prevention of further foreign workers entering the country, but don't forget that the ministry's figures are steeped in political speculation. For example, if the minister wants to make it harder for those seeking unemployment benefits, he can declare anyone not accepting a job offer as a "refusenik" (not entitled to benefits) or similarly for anyone refusing to join a course, to bring the numbers down.
So to be fair, one should seriously only consider the CBS data, which conducts an objective survey according to the professional practices used elsewhere in the western world, and on this basis, the unemployment situation is pretty bad.
Next month, there could be a drop in the unemployment figures, due to a rise in security guards for March and April, following the wave of terrorist attacks. But guards do not raise the GDP in a positive way; they don't even raise the level of security compared to "normal" times. The security guard in every restaurant is a temporary phenomenon, we hope, so no politician will attempt next month to claim that "his policies" brought a reduction in the unemployment figures. A reduction in unemployment through calling up reserve soldiers or putting more on guard duty, is a cursed reduction.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now