jerusalem unemployment line 88 248.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The unemployment rate in January rose to 6.8 percent of the civilian labor force, the highest level in 14 months, as employers laid off an estimated 80,000 workers over the past six months.
The unemployment rate surged from 6.3% in the fourth quarter of last year to 6.8% in January, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Wednesday. Based on the bureau's preliminary figures, the total number of unemployed is more than 200,000.
The Bank of Israel expects the unemployment rate to rise to 8% this year.
In February, the number of newly unemployed fell to 17,830 from 19,719 in January, the National Employment Service (NES) reported Wednesday. The total number of unemployed rose 1.8%, to 197,800, compared with the previous month, it said.
"It's too early to estimate whether this is a sign of a slowdown in the growth rate of unemployment, which has been rising over the past 11 months," NES director Yossi Farhi said Wednesday.
Since the beginning of the year, employers have laid off an average of 18,800 workers per month compared with a monthly average of 15,600 in the third quarter of last year and 10,600 during the first six months of 2008, he said.
Based on statistics for February, the national rate of unemployment is 6.9%, the NES reported. The highest rate of unemployment, 11%, was in the South, followed by the North, at 10.6%. The lowest unemployment rates were in Jerusalem and the coastal plain with 4% and 4.3% respectively.
According to the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry's employer survey, the number of available positions is expected to drop by 13% across all sectors of the economy in the first quarter of this year compared with the previous quarter and by 62% compared with the same quarter last year.
"The figures for the first quarter of this year point to a continued decline in the demand for workers in the business sector," Benny Pfefferman, head of the research and economics division at the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, said Wednesday. "A preliminary analysis of unemployment numbers in the business sector for the last two quarters shows that employers laid off 80,000 workers amid the crisis."
The number of job-seekers in February rose 2.3% in seasonally adjusted terms to 220,200 from 215,200 in January and 188,400 during the same month a year earlier, the NES reported. During the same period, the number of academic job-seekers surged 6.8%, while the number of nonacademic job-seekers increased 4.7%.