Israel's Unemployment Rate Drops to 32-year Low

Despite global economic troubles, unemployment averaged 5.6% of the adult workforce in 2011.

Unemployment in Israel fell to a 32-year low in 2011 despite the economic troubles shaking the world, which have hit Israeli exports and slowed economic growth. Last year unemployment averaged 5.6% of the adult workforce, compared with 6.6% the year before, according to the latest figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics.

The last time unemployment sank that low was in 1978. The figure then was 4.3% of the adult workforce.

Technion lab worker

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The statistics bureau says the actual number of people meeting the criteria to be officially considered "unemployed" - which include actively seeking work - fell to 180,000 on average in 2011. That's a drop of 14% from the year before.

The rate of unemployment among men plunged from 6.8% to 5.6%. Among women, the rate fell by 6.5% to 20.2%.

The state of the economy, as far as the jobless are concerned, improved dramatically last year. The bureau's figures show that 5.6% of the country's unemployed had spent more than a year looking for work, down from 22.4% in 2010.

But will unemployment stay that low? Almost certainly not, say economists: Global trade has been slowing, which has been hitting Israeli exports. Rafi Gozlan, chief economist at IBI, pointed out in his latest weekly review that underlying data forming the Composite Index of Indicators shows pressure building for unemployment to rise. The average number of employees in the business sector was the same in the fourth quarter as in the third, Gozlan wrote: "That buttresses the assessment that pressure is mounting for unemployment to rise, and that the main support for the steadiness in unemployment rates so far was hiring by the public sector."