Recovering, but Slowly: Israel's Unemployment Rate Fell to Under 15% in November

Nati Tucker
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The reopening of Ayalon Mall, Ramat Gan following the coronavirus lockdown
The reopening of Ayalon Mall, Ramat Gan following the coronavirus lockdownCredit: Moti Milrod
Nati Tucker

Israel’s labor market extended its post-lockdown recovery in the first half of November, but with many sectors of the economy still closed and/or subject to restrictions, the pace of the employment rebound was disturbingly slow.

Figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics released on Monday showed that the broadest measure of joblessness fell to 14.6% in the first two weeks of November, or a total of 603,000 people. That compared with 18%, or more than 732,000 people, in the second half of October.

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The moderate decline coincided with some easing of pandemic restrictions, such as the reopening of businesses that don’t host the public and street-front stores from November 4 except in cities designated “red” under the traffic-light system. However, restaurants and events halls remained closed as did shopping malls during the period.

The broad measure of unemployment, which was introduced to provide a better picture of the labor market during the pandemic, includes the traditional measure of joblessness (out of work but looking for a job), on unpaid leave, or jobless but not seeking work due to the coronavirus.

Of those three components, the traditional unemployment rates rose slightly to 5.1% in the first half of November from 4.8% in the previous two-week period, the bureau said. That level has held more or less steady throughout the crisis, despite fears that many of those now on unpaid leave would eventually lose their jobs.

However, the number on unpaid leave dropped sharply as many returned to their jobs – to 306,000 in the first half of November from 436,000 in the second half of October. However, most of those on unpaid leave remain because so many business sectors remain closed.

The third sector, people who were laid off due to the coronavirus and are not searching for work, remained stable at about 96,000 people in first-half November, the statistics bureau said.

The drop in the jobless following Israel’s second lockdown, which ran for about a month until the middle of October, is slower than the decline following the first lockdown last spring. By the first half of June, two months after the first lockdown has been lifted, the broad jobless rate was just 11.8%.

Last spring the economy resumed almost full activity soon after the lockdown, but the number of new COVID-19 cases began rising quickly, too, and by the summer the government was reimposing restrictions and finally a full lockdown in September. This time, officials have been more cautious about reopening.

The Finance Ministry expects Israel’s broad unemployment rate to average 15.1% in 2020, assuming that no third lockdown or other major restrictions have to be imposed later this year. If there are, it forecasts a slightly bigger average rate for the year of 15.3%.

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