Unemployment back up to 9.1% in November

Despite appearance, the new figures do not actually indicate that unemployment is back on the rise.

Some 9.1 percent of Israel's civilian labor force was unemployed in November, October and September, up from 9.0% in the five preceding months, according to the most recent trend data released Tuesday by the Central Bureau of Statistics. Previous trend data indicated that unemployment fell from 9.1% for March through August to 9.0% in September and 8.9% in October. Despite appearance, the new figures do not actually indicate that unemployment is back on the rise, CBS spokeswoman Yael Natan explained. "Fluctuation between 8.9% and 9.1% is not considered to be a change. [Unemployment] is still stable," she assured. Though calling the apparent reversal "a bit surprising," Leader & Co. analyst Jonathan Katz agreed that the new data do not constitute a change of any real significance to the market. "Monthly unemployment numbers are not reliable, and are not really paid attention to," he said. If anything, the slight rise in unemployment could be read positively, as a factor that may help convince Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer not to raise the interest rate this month, Katz suggested. Unemployment fell steadily from a peak of 10.9% in November and December 2003 to 9.3% in January 2005. The new data indicate that it then fell to 9.2% in February and 9.1% in March to 9.0% for April through August, before readjusting to 9.1% for September, October, and December. The more recent monthly figures could change "significantly" in the next updates, the CBS said, noting generally that quarterly numbers have less sampling error. "This data series - as all economic data series in the country - is characterized by high variability, among other things as a result of security events," the bureau said. Unemployed are defined as those who did not work even one hour in the week surveyed, despite having actively sought employment for at least the previous four months, and would start working that week if offered an appropriate job.