Israeli consumer confidence plunged in February to its lowest point since 2004, on fears that the job market will further deteriorate and expectations that already weakened economic conditions will continue to get worse. The monthly Consumer Confidence Index compiled by Bank Hapoalim and TNS, the global marketing information group, dropped in February by 10 points to a level of 111.3 after rising by 7.9 points in January. "Following a surprising increase in January, the index, impacted by the worsening economic climate, last month fell back down below the December level," Bank Hapoalim economists said in a report Monday. "The decline in the index is consistent with recent data showing that the economy is falling into a recession. "The index showed that the greatest fear of consumers is the situation of the job market; the rate of surveyed who think that there are few available positions reached a high." Since the middle of 2007 until this February, the index shed 26 points, reaching the lowest point since April 2004. The major contribution to the February fall came from the Present Situation Index, which dropped 13.6 points. The Expectations Index declined by 7.6 points during the same month. Among the most outstanding results was the sharp deterioration in the outlook on the current employment situation, the report said, while in the Shopping Climate Index there were signs of a recovery in recent months. The Consumer Confidence Index of Bank Hapoalim and TNS in Israel is based on a TNS Teleseker monthly poll covering a national sample of 1,000 respondents who represent the vast majority of the adult population of Israel. The index has been published in Israel since April 2002. Consumer-confidence indexes are on a downward slope in developed countries around the world on the back of a sharp rise in unemployment. Still, the Bank Hapoalim economists said the impairment of Israeli consumer confidence was moderate compared to other countries, such as the UK and US, which are in the midst of a real-estate and financial crisis and a deep recession. Reflecting much of the deteriorating outlook by the public on the employment situation, the Employment Index compiled by the ORS human-resources company, found that the demand for workers dropped by 9.2 percent in February, compared with the previous month, and by 19% compared with the same month last year. The index showed that in February three job seekers, on average, fought for each available position. "The competition for every available position in the market continues to be challenging for job seekers," said Orna Landau, ORS deputy CEO of marketing and business development. "Demand for sales and customer-services workers continues to be fairly stable, as companies are getting prepared for a struggle to win customers and market share in a recession year." Sector-by-sector analysis showed that following months of declines in the requests for insurance, banking and finance workers, demand picked up during February, with a rise of 60% compared with the previous month. But demand for workers in this sector was still down 40% compared with February last year. "The increase in the demand for insurance, banking and finance workers was mainly attributed to the recruitment of front-desk bank staff as banks improve customer services while they fight for every customer in a worsening economic climate," Landau said. The demand for administrative staff suffered the most during February, declining 23% compared with January, and down 67% compared with February of last year. In February, the demand for employees in the sales sector declined by 1.7% compared with the previous month, but rose by 101% when compared with the same month in the previous year. Demand for customer-services staff was up 4.7% in February compared with a month earlier, but down 37% compared with February 2008. Managerial positions saw a 4.7% fall in demand compared with January and a 20% drop in comparison with February last year.