20,000 workers lose jobs in January

Number of job seekers expected to surpass 260,000 by end of year

jerusalem unemployment line 88 248 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
jerusalem unemployment line 88 248
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
A record 19,719 workers lost their jobs in January, the most ever for a single month, the National Employment Service reported Tuesday. The number of people unemployed for at least two days rose 1.6 percent in seasonally adjusted terms, compared with the previous month, to 192,400. In December, 17,499 people were laid off. During January, the number of job seekers rose 3.8%, in seasonally adjusted terms, to 215,000, up from 207,200 in December. Demand for workers in January fell 12.1% to 20,100, compared to 22,900 in January 2008, the NES reported Monday. Based on the Bank of Israel's growth forecast and current employment statistics, NES research division head David Zarfati said the number of job seekers was expected to exceed 260,000 by the end of 2009. NES director Yossi Farhi on Tuesday urged the government to convene an emergency meeting to discuss the deteriorating situation in the labor market. The government needed to put operative measures and tools at the disposal of the employment service to provide the means to assist the unemployed, he said. In recent months, Farhi has been calling the government to invest in infrastructure and support retraining programs so that people who lose their jobs in the hi-tech industry can seek employment in traditional industry. "A year ago we had warned about the coming crisis, which has now broken out," Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini said Tuesday. "The outgoing government has failed to bring together employers and the Histadrut to discuss the best ways to cope with this crisis. There is no doubt that the new government will need to fight a serious battle against the crisis. We are prepared to give a hand to the new government, whatever formation it may take, in an effort to avert further deterioration of the situation." According to Israel Manufacturers Association president Shraga Brosh, without a joint meeting between the government, employers and the Histadrut to formulate solutions, the number of layoffs will continue to rise. "There are ways to stem the wave of layoffs across the economy in general and in factories in particular, and I hope that this will be on the agenda of the new government and the new finance minister," he said Tuesday. "We have proposed a government-supported four-day work model, which would make it possible to retain workers, keep production running and avert factory closures. Other proposals include putting workers on holidays without payment, easing the credit crisis and boosting demand in the local market." After a four-year downward trend in the number of unemployed, the average monthly rate began to rise last April. In the 10-month period from April to January, the number of unemployed rose at a monthly average of 1.3%. Over the same 10 months, unemployment figures increased by an accumulative 12.9%. In a recent macroeconomic report on the local economy, Direct Investment House economists said the economy was entering a deep recession that would last two years, leading to a sharp rise in unemployment of 8% this year and 10% in 2010.