Unemployment Rises to 6.5% as Statistical Methods Updated

The new Central Bureau of Statistics reported a surprising spike in unemployment in February, but the new collection methods might have made the new numbers look more drastic than they are.

Unemployment hit 6.5% in February − a huge hike compared to the 5.4% rate reported for the end of 2011. But the Central Bureau of Statistics said the figures were not comparable because the stats bureau has updated its methods for collecting and reporting unemployment data to match those used in other OECD countries.

In January the bureau changed its methodology − and reported 6.6% unemployment. The bureau now conducts monthly surveys instead of quarterly ones and coverage has been widened.

The bureau now interviews some 21,500 people aged 15 or older every month for its surveys, which allows it to better track developments in the labor market and the composition of the workforce.

But the changes in methodology do not seem to completely explain the huge jump in unemployment figures from the end of 2011 to now. One major change is the inclusion of soldiers in the workforce numbers, which should have actually lowered unemployment rates. The results also raise questions as to how reliable the old data was.

The new survey covers 470 towns instead of the previous 370 and includes more small towns in outlying areas. Since such towns tend to have much higher unemployment rates than big cities, this may partly explain the increase.