For the first time since the outbreak of the global economic crisis, the local unemployment rate dropped, falling to 7.6 percent of the civilian labor force in August, according to preliminary data published by the Central Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday. "The figures are supportive and strengthen positive economic indicators published in recent months that indicate the start of a recovery," Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said. "Exports in the third quarter rose 20% in annual terms - a sign of resourcefulness and flexibility by Israeli industry." "At the same time, the road to full economic recovery is still long," he said. "Lowering unemployment levels is still at the top of the agenda of the Finance Ministry and the government. We will continue to act in cooperation with workers, employers and industry to create jobs and bring the economy back to fast growth." The statistics bureau revised its unemployment figures for June and July from 7.9% for both months to 7.8% and 7.7%, respectively. The revised figures show that the rate of unemployment was 7.9% during April and May and started to decline gradually from June to August, when the number of unemployed reached 228,000. The unemployment rate increased gradually from 6.1% last September to 7.2% in January and 7.9% in April as 50,000 workers lost their jobs. The Bank of Israel expects the average unemployment rate to be 8.1% in 2009 and 8.3% in 2010. The statistics bureau also published a report comparing Israel to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, showing that the unemployment rate in Israel during 2000-2007 fell from 7.4% to 6.1%, while in OECD countries the rate dropped from 5.3% to 4.8%. The unemployment rate of Israelis with an academic background was 4.5%, compared with 3.5% in OECD countries. The unemployment rate of Israelis with less schooling was 12.9%, compared with 9.6% in OECD countries. The average participation rate in the labor market among Israelis aged 25 to 64 rose from 67% in 2000 to 70% in 2007, while in OECD countries it rose from 71% to 72%.