Key economic index rises 0.6% in March

The rise points to a continued recovery in economic activity, the central bank says.

The state-of-the economy index rose 0.6 percent in March on the back of continued growth in industrial production and imports and exports of goods and services, which was partially offset by a decline in growth of trade and services revenue, the Bank of Israel reported Monday.
“The rise, which comes after increases in the previous months, points to a continued recovery in economic activity,” the central bank said. “The rise this month was due to rises in the indices of manufacturing production, imports and exports of goods and services.”
The central bank readjusted the index data for February from an increase of 0.2% to 0.3%, following revised data from the Central Bureau of Statistics for exports of goods.
Manufacturing increased 0.9% in February, following a rise of 2.3% in January. Trade and services fell 1.4% in February, after rising 3% in January.
Exports of services advanced 6.6% in March, following a rise of 6% in February. Exports of goods rose 7.4% in March, following an increase of 1.6% in February.
Imports of consumer goods rose 4.2% in March, after growing 0.2% in February.
The Melnick Index, a monthly measure of the state of the economy, published by the IDC Herzliya on Monday, rose 0.9% in March, driven by continued expansion of the business sector. The majority of the index’s indicators have risen considerably, signaling an acceleration in economic activity, in particular in industrial production, which grew 0.9% in February, after expanding 2.3% in January. Imports surged 5% in March, after growing 2.2% in February.
The number of salaried positions in the business sector rose 1% in January, compared with an increase of 0.1% in December, pointing to a recovery in the demand for workers in the economy, IDC Herzliya Prof. Rafi Melnick said.
Industrial production increased an annualized 9.8% in the December-February period, compared with a rise of 10.4% in the previous three months, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Monday. Manufacturing production, excluding hi-tech, rose an annualized 13.1%, compared with 15.3% in the previous quarter. Industrial production fell 6%, or 9.7% not including hi-tech, last year.
In the December-February period, the number of jobs in the industrial sector rose 3.1%, compared with 2.7% in the previous three months. The number of work hours rose 6.4% in the December-February period, compared with an increase of 5.3% in September-November.
The number of job seekers fell 1%, in seasonally adjusted terms, to 211,971 in March, from 214,027 in February, the Employment Service reported Monday. Last month 12,556 people lost their jobs, down from 12,933 in February, of whom 6,181 were women and 6,375 were men.
There were 197,600 unemployed people in March, down 0.5% from 198,500 in February.
The unemployment rate in February remained steady at a preliminary 7.3%of the civilian labor force, after gradually declining since May lastyear when unemployment reached a high of 7.9%, the statistics bureaureported last week.
Last week, the Bank of Israel revised its forecasts for the economy andthe labor market. This year, the economy is set to expand by 3.7%, upfrom the earlier estimate of 3.5%, and the average unemployment rate isexpected to drop to 7%, up from the previous forecast of 7.1%.
Next year, gross domestic product is expected to increase by 4% and theunemployment rate to fall to 6.7%, the central bank reported.