The pace of growth in industry during the first quarter year was the highest in five-and-ahalf years, and industry optimism is currently at the highest in nearly six years. According to a report released by the Manufacturers Association of Israel, under President Shraga Brosh, of the 165 companies surveyed, 55 percent experienced an increase in output in the first quarter, with only 20% reporting a decline. With this in mind, the heads of the companies then responded positively when asked for their predictions for the second quarter with 59% of the interviewees saying they expect a further increase in production over the period, with a mere 15% anticipating a decline. Meanwhile, 26% of the companies said they had hired extra workers during the first quarter, with 14% saying that they had reduced staff levels - an overall positive change since the last survey, when only 25% of companies had taken on more staff and 16% had decreased worker numbers. Going forward, 27% of the companies anticipate hiring further staff during the second quarter, with 9% seeing a reduction in workers over the same period. Breaking down the figures further, sales in the domestic market during the first quarter also were ahead of the previous results with 46% of the companies studied saying they saw growth in local sales while 21% experienced a decline. That contrast with their figures from the last quarter when only 35% saw an increase and 31% found their sales falling. Looking to the second quarter, 46% of companies said they saw further growth domestically, with only 9% expecting a decline in local sales.