The country's manufacturers increased production in the first quarter of 2007 by some 8.5 percent compared to the same period last year, while the number of workers and working hours in the industrial sector also increased, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported. Leading the growth among manufacturers was the country's technology industry, most notably integrated low-tech companies, including those that manufacture rubber, plastic, metal components and mining and quarrying equipment, as CBS reported a production increase of 11.9% among companies in this sector, building off of the 13.9% growth in the last quarter of 2006. Hi-tech companies, including electronics, aerospace and medical equipment manufacturers posted an 8.1% increase in production to start the year, drastically increasing growth from 2006's last quarter, when the hi-tech sector only showed production growth of 1.9%. Over the whole of last year, production among Israel's hi-tech companies rose 21.3%. Hi-tech companies, the bureau noted, also posted a 5.4% increase in the number of their employees in 2007's first quarter alone, after raising the total number of workers by 6.5% over all of last year. Integrated, medium-tech companies also reported strong growth during the first three months of the year, up 3.9%, although not as significant as the last three months of 2006 when the industry posted a 9.7% rise in production. Included among the mid-tech sector are companies that manufacture machines and electric components. Manufacturers in the country's low-tech sector, including food, drink, textile, clothing, leather-goods and paper manufacturers increased production 4.2% to open 2007, following growth of 5.5% from October to December 2006. Meanwhile, the Manufacturers Association of Israel said this week it expects investments in the country's industrial companies to increase 10% this year, after rising some 30%, in 2006. "Last year's pace of investment cannot be matched again," said Nira Shamir, head of the Association's economic department. "Therefore, we are looking at a significant downsizing in the amount of investments made in Israel's industrial companies." Shamir noted that during the last quarter of 2006, investments in Israeli hi-tech companies rose 52% to NIS 1.6b., while investments in companies that manufacture equipment and machinery increased 32% to NIS 3.6b., after increasing a combined 50% over the second and third quarters of last year. CBS also reported that revenue from Israel's commerce and services sectors jumped 9.3% from January through March, continuing its rise over the last couple of years. The commerce sector includes both wholesale and retail distributors, while the service sector is comprised of business and personal consultants, food and events coordination companies and health services. Revenue among the country's wholesalers increased 7.8% in 2007's first quarter, while retailers saw revenue rise 6.9%, the Bureau said. Among service sector companies, events coordinators posted growth of 10%, after an increase of 6.6% over the last three months of 2006.