Productivity in the Israeli hi-tech industry, a major growth catalyst for the country's economy, is on a downward slope for the fourth quarter in a row, according to figures published by the Manufacturers Association of Israel. "The decline in hi-tech growth and productivity continued in the third quarter of the year for the fourth quarter in a row," said Roby Ginel, director of the Association's economic department. "At the same time, though, the hi-tech industry recruited 1,690 new workers in the third quarter of the year." According to the figures provided by the Association, productivity in the sector fell by 1 percent in the months July to September this year compared with the previous month, while employment in the sector rose by 1.6% during the same period. Employment growth in the sector was a result of recruitment of workers in the fields of electronic equipment, electronic communication equipment and haulage tools. At the end of last month, the Association reported that exports of hi-tech products slowed considerably over the last previous months, leading to concern among business leaders that the technology-reliant export sector may be headed for a big drop-off during the next few years. Since July, hi-tech exports, including electronic items, computers, communications equipment, aerospace products and medicines, have grown only 0.5%. Between 2004 and 2006, hi-tech exports made up 48% of the entire market, a number that is on pace to fall to 45% this year, Ginel pointed out. Against the declining trend in the hi-tech industry, production levels of industry as a whole experienced renewed growth of 1% in the third quarter after stabilizing in the second quarter and modest growth of 0.8% in the first quarter of the year. Renewed growth in the industry as a whole was driven mainly by productivity growth within the mixed traditional technology sector including rubber and plastics, which grew by 3.7%. In addition, productivity in the traditional technology sector and the food, beverage, tobacco, textile and paper industry increased by 1% in the third quarter of the year, compared to a modest decline in the second quarter. The industry as a whole recruited a total of 3,340 new workers in the third quarter, representing an increase of 0.9%.