Job-hunters received bad news on Tuesday, as the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry reported that the number of job openings in the country fell for the third quarter in a row, signaling a pervading sense of pessimism among employers about the country's economic outlook. "We are part of the global world and therefore changes in the world economy such as the exchange rate or lower demand in exports are also affecting local businesses," said Benny Pfefferman, head of the ministry's research, planning and economics administration, in a phone interview with The Jerusalem Post. "At the same time, Israel has in recent years experienced an economic boom, growing at very high rates of over 5 percent and bringing down unemployment. So even without a slowdown in the world economy the growth rate in the local economy was expected to decline by 3% to 4%." The ministry's report showed that the number of job openings fell for the third quarter in a row by a cumulative rate of 17%. In the second quarter of this year, the number of vacant jobs dropped by 4% to a daily average of 53,000 jobs - not including construction and agriculture - compared with the first quarter of 2008. The survey was conducted by the ministry's planning and research department, which monitors a representative sampling of 2,400 employers in Israel. The results found that in the second quarter the number of filled positions rose by 3.5% compared with the previous quarter, while during the same period the number of layoffs rose by 10.2%. These two factors continued to bring down the positive balance (filled positions minus layoffs) to 8,000 workers in the second quarter from 15,000 in the previous quarter and 44,000 during the second quarter last year. "If this trend continues we are likely to see a negative employment balance over the next quarters," said Pfefferman. Sector by sector analysis showed that in the second quarter of this year, the drop in job openings was most pronounced in the finance (63%), community services (30%) and industrial (27%) sectors. Pfefferman pointed out that the slowdown in the demand for workers in the first half of this year was registered mainly by small businesses, which decreased by 20% compared with the average demand in 2007, followed by medium-sized businesses and large businesses, where demand fell at a rate of 10% and 4% respectively. The ministry's figures were published following positive data published at the beginning of this week by the Israel Employment Service, which reported that the number of Israelis looking for work fell in the first quarter. The Employment Service reported a 7.9% drop in the number of jobseekers in the first quarter, compared with the corresponding quarter of 2007, and a 1.8% drop compared with the fourth quarter of 2007. Furthermore, demand for workers in the first quarter was 10.6% higher than in the corresponding quarter of last year, and 3.5% higher compared with the preceding quarter. Similarly, figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics last week showed that the unemployment rate declined to 6.1% in May from 6.2% in April and 7.4% in May 2007. "There is no discrepancy between our figures and recent employment figures. Only about one quarter of businesses register through the Israel Employment Service, and therefore their results provide only a partial picture of the situation," said Pfefferman.