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For the first time in over a decade, the number of unemployed Israelis has dropped below 200,000 people, constituting only 6.6% of the workforce.

According to data released yesterday by the Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of unemployed people in Israel last November was only 194,000.

The CBS figures represent a consistent and rapid decline in unemployment since last August.

In November 2006, unemployment was at 8.1%, or 237,500 people. This means that some 44,000 people have entered the work force over the past 12 months, mostly due to rapid economic growth.

In August 2007, unemployment was at 7%, compared to 7.2% the previous month. By September, unemployment had fallen to 6.8%, dropping to 6.7% in October, according to the newly released adjusted figures.

"Again we are seeing encouraging data about the economy," said Finance Minister Roni Bar-On, "but this is not enough. We must carry on implementing the social agenda and ensure greater participation in the workforce, so as to consistently and over time decrease poverty."

On average, unemployment in the second quarter of 2007 was 7.5% of the civilian workforce, and 7.3% for the third quarter.

Unemployment was much higher in November 2005, at 8.9%. Twelve months earlier, in 2004, it was as high as 9.9%. The reason for the fall in unemployment figures can be found in substantial growth in most industries.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's economic advisor, Professor Manuel Trachtenberg, said that although the figures indicate a desirable trend, an employment rate of 6.6% was still high, given Israel's unique conditions. "There are hard-core populations of people who do not work," Trachtenberg told TheMarker.

Trachtenberg mentioned the ultra-Orthodox community and the Arab population as particularly problematic.

He said the government's unemployment goal for 2008 and onward should now be 5%, which he described as possible - but difficult.

Trachtenberg explained that the easy part of reducing unemployment had been completed, but those remaining would be much harder to put to work. Trachtenberg said the remaining out-of-work population is mostly unaffected by economic growth, for various reasons such as, among others, lack of education.