Industrialists are expecting "record growth" in the number of new workers in the first quarter of 2006, "the likes of which have not been seen in the last decade," the Manufacturers Association of Israel said Wednesday. Roughly 7,600 new workers would be absorbed by the end of the year, bringing the total number of industrial workers to about 350,000, the association said, citing a survey of 165 enterprises. More than one in four industrialists indicated they would hire new workers, while less than one in eight expected to trim their work force. Significant growth was expected in the electronics, metals, and electricity sectors, in addition to hirings in the textile and clothing and quarrying and construction materials sectors. Lesser job growth was seen in chemical industries and job growth was not expected in the food and rubber and plastics industries. Layoffs were anticipated in paper and printed materials. Sales to the domestic market were expected to rebound - with one in three industrialists expecting increases against 15% anticipating contraction. Growth in exports would accelerate as well - with 43% of respondents expecting increases and 16% anticipating drops. In the fourth quarter of 2005, industrial growth had slowed down significantly, the MAI said, noting that "industrialists have not reported such a moderate growth rate in this survey for more than two years." Some 42% of respondents expanded their output and 31% reduced output, against 51% and 22%, respectively, in the previous survey (September-October). One in four manufacturers said they hired workers in the last quarter of 2005, while 17% said they fired workers, up from 11% in the previous survey. Responses also indicated that investment in fixed assets grew at a faster rate in the fourth quarter, despite a slowdown in operations. Just above one-third of manufacturers reported an increase in sales to the domestic market in the fourth quarter, against just under one-third that reported a drop in domestic sales, the MAI said, noting that the numbers indicated stagnation. Exports, on the other hand, continued to grow, with 41% of manufacturers surveyed reporting increased exports (including 5% indicating significant growth) and 27% reporting diminished sales abroad. MAI President Shraga Brosh estimated that 100 to 200 manufacturers were required to transfer part of their production activity abroad over the past few years, "in order to compete and survive ... in an era of globalization and free importation from the whole world." Brosh expects the transfer of jobs abroad to continue and even accelerate in the near future "due to the constraints of reality in the business sector," he said, adding that "such a step actually helps [industry] continue employing many thousands of workers in factories in Israel." Some 58% of factories with operations abroad reported growth in output abroad in the last quarter of 2005, with 15% registering significant growth. They also expected their outputs and investments abroad to continue expanding in the first quarter, alongside slower expansion of the work force in foreign factories.