Israel's Jobless Rate Takes Surprise Dip

Over the second half of 2012, the monthly unemployment rate ranged between 6.7% and 6.9% without any clear turn higher or lower.

Israel’s unemployment rate took a sharp and unexpected dip in January to a seasonally adjusted 6.5% of the civilian labor force, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Thursday.

That marked an 0.3 percentage point decline from the month before, and its lowest since the CBS revamped the way it measures the jobless rate. Over the second half of 2012, the monthly unemployment rate ranged between 6.7% and 6.9% without any clear turn higher or lower.

However, the drop in the January jobless rate was also accompanied by a decline in the percentage of the population in the labor force, either as employed or actively seeking work. Among people aged 15 and older, the rate dropped to 63.4% last month, from 63.7% in December. It was the lowest labor force participation rate since March 2012.

Although Israel’s economy has been slowing, with gross domestic product growing at its most sluggish pace in three-and-half-years in the fourth quarter, the unemployment rate has remained relatively stable, averaging about 6.9% in the fourth quarter of 2012. Nevertheless, the Bank of Israel is forecasting unemployment to climb to 7.1% this year.

The jobless rate among men dropped to 6.5% in January, from 6.7% the month before. Among women, the rate dropped more sharply, from 6.8% to match the male rate of 6.5%, the CBS said.

In the key age group of people between the age of 25 and 64, the jobless rate dropped to 5.5%, from 5.6% in December, with the rate for men down 0.2 points to 5.5% and the rate for women remaining unchanged at 5.5%, the CBS said. However, the percentage of that age group in the labor force declined in January to 78.3%, from 78.5% the month before, it said.

Tomer Appelbaum