Israel's economy may be motoring ahead but the growth has again failed to filter into the unemployment rate, which remained unchanged at 9.1% in August for the sixth month in a row, the Central Bureau of Statistics said on Sunday.
The figure, which is seasonally adjusted, fell steadily after it hit a peak of 10.9% in November and December 2003, but it has not moved since March this year. The figures add to the picture provided by the Employment Service, which said last month that the number of registered job seekers rose a seasonally-adjusted 1% in August to 236,432 and that the number of people registered as unemployed rose less than 1% to 213,566.
The unemployment figure has failed to fall despite the improvements in the economy. On Friday the Bank of Israel said that the state-of-economy index, or "S" Index, rose a preliminary 0.1% in September having risen 0.1% in August also. The index, which measures the direction "in which real economic activity is moving" and is made up of five sub-indexes, was boosted by a 6.9% surge in the imports index.
However, other sub-indexes fell, with the exports index dropping 1.2% in September after rising 2.2% in August. The index of goods and services revenue fell 3.4% in August after rising by 1.3 percent in July, and the index of manufacturing production slipped 0.5% in August following its 2.7% rise in July. These two latter sub-indexes have a one-month lag.
Despite the mixed picture provided by the employment statistics and the "S" index, gross domestic product has been powering ahead. In the first half, it rose an annuated 4.9% having risen 4.3% in the whole of 2004. At the end of last month the CBS said it expects Israel's GDP to expand 5.1 percent in 2005, which would be the strongest growth since 2000.
To ensure that economic growth helps lead to a fall in unemployment, the government has instigated a number of initiatives, the most high profile being the Wisconsin Plan. Launched in August, the program is designed to help the unemployed find jobs by providing advice and services beyond those traditionally offered by the Employment Service.