Unemployment in North Still Rampant as Factories Continue to Close Doors

Unemployment rates remain high in the north of the country, especially in Arab towns in the Galilee, even as the central and southern regions appear to be recovering from the recession.

The national unemployment rate dropped to below 8 percent in the third quarter of this year, but that figure is at least 2.5 times higher in many Arab towns in the Galilee, including Sakhnin and Kabul. The jobless rate is even higher in nearby Tamra (28 percent) and Arabeh (26 percent).

Jewish areas are faring better, but are still doing worse than in other parts of the country.

The unemployment rate in Tiberias, Afula, Migdal Ha'emek, Upper Nazareth and other cities ranged between 9 percent and 11 percent in November, according to the Israel Employment Service.

The north also has a greater proportion of people who work part-time because they can't find full-time jobs.

Textiles hit hard

Employment in the north was affected by the closure of several local factories this year, including textile plants Gibor Sport and Hanit Sibim and water heater manufacturer Atmor, all in Kiryat Shmona.

The Off Haemek poultry slaughterhouse in the Jezreel Valley was shut down for eight months this year, though it reopened two weeks ago.

Even some companies in the north that have remained open have fired a portion of their employees, as textile company Delta has done.

And at least two textile plants are in danger of shutting down: Tefron, which is in the Gush Segev industrial zone and employs 950 people, and Molitan in Nahariya, which employs 100 people.

Tefron went from being in the black to running up losses of NIS 12 million, while the Haifa District Court appointed a receiver for Molitan last night because the company owes Discount Bank NIS 32 million.

Air conditioner manufacturer Tadiran is due to close its Afula plant in three weeks. It will retain only a few employees, all of them in marketing.

The closure of a plant the size of Tefron means that not only will its own employees have to find new jobs, but so will 650 workers at other factories in the Galilee that supply the company with raw material and provide other services.

"The problem is that Tefron employees, like those at Molitan, will have a very hard time finding other work if they become unemployed, since their expertise is in textile-related work, nothing else," said Yoav Klein, the acting chairman of the Histadrut labor federation in the Carmiel district.

The high-tech market in the north has also seen a flurry of pink slips.

Since the financial crisis began, Tower Semiconductor has fired 200 of its 1,200 workers and Plastronix has fired 200 of its 1,000 employees.

Vishay has fired 400 employees across the country, including those in its Migdal Ha'emek plant, and Camtek has gotten rid of 40 of its 180 workers.