Unemployment falls to 7.4 percent

Number of working women up by 21,000; male workers down by 12,000 last year.

unemployment 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
unemployment 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Unemployment dropped to the lowest point in a year in the fourth quarter of 2009 as continued growth in the country’s economy started to create jobs, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported on Sunday.
“The improvement in the economy beginning in the second quarter of 2009 is gradually leading to an improvement in employment in the business sector,” said Rafael Gozlan, chief economist at Leader Capital Markets in Tel Aviv, in a telephone interview.
The unemployment rate fell to 7.4 percent in the fourth quarter of last year from a revised 7.7% in the third quarter, 7.9% in the second quarter, and 7.6% in the first quarter. The rate of unemployment among men in the fourth quarter remained at 7.7%, similar to the previous quarter, while the rate among women dropped to 7% from 7.7% in the third quarter. 
The unemployment rate averaged 7.6% in 2009, compared with 6.1% in 2008, according to the CBS.
Unemployment is likely to fall to pre-crisis levels of about 6.2% in a year or so, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said last month.
The jobless rate is expected to drop to 7.1% for the year, the Bank of Israel said.
The figures released by the CBS showed that in the fourth quarter of 2009, out of more than 3 million people in the civilian work force, 2.8 million were employed and 223,000 were unemployed.
Among the employed, 1.5 million were men and 1.3 million were women. During the course of 2009, the number of employed rose by 9,000, as the number of female workers increased by 21,000 while the number of male workers fell by 12,000.
The labor participation rate in the fourth quarter of last year remained steady at 56.6% similar to level in the third quarter. Participation rate was higher among men at 61.4%, compared with 52.1% among women.
On Tuesday, a committee for shaping labor market policy in Israel headed by deputy governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Zvi Eckstein, presented its first report to the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry.
In the report, the government committee recommended a number of employment targets such as bringing the labor participation rate among the 25 to 64 years old to 76.5% from the current 69.9% and among the 20 to 24 years old to 60% from 44.7% currently by 2020.
“Implementation of the targets would add another 30,000 workers a year to the labor market above natural growth in employment,”stated the report. “As a result gross domestic product would grow by 1.5%.”

Trend figures published by the CBS showed that exports of goods andservices rose by 15% in annual terms in the months November 2009 toJanuary 2010, while imports of raw materials jumped 33.8% and creditcard purchases increased by 8.7%.
From November to December, industrial production increased by anannualized 6.6% and revenue of trade and services surged by 6.7%. Theeconomy expanded 4.4% in annual terms in the fourth quarter last year,driven by strong growth in exports and private consumption.
Bloomberg contributed to this report.