The number of unemployed in February 2006 was down 0.4 percent to 223,800 from 232,500 a year earlier, according to data released Thursday by the Israel National Employment Service. Since the beginning of 2005, unemployment has continuously fallen by an average monthly rate of 0.2%, although the number of new job seekers increased by 2.3% in February to 20,700 after falling by an average monthly rate of 0.5% in 2005 the Service indicated. Over the past 12 months, 35.4% of job seekers were unemployed for 270 days, which showed continued difficulties in terms of the length of time taken to find work. The proportion of chronic unemployed out of the total number job seekers increased by nearly 30% from 9.6% in January 2002 to 35.4% in February 2006. The monthly report showed that the unemployment rate in Arab towns and villages accounted for 23.7% of the total number of job seekers compared with 16.1% in developed towns.