The National Insurance Institute's data for the month of May, published on Wednesday, revealed a drop of five percent in the number of people registering for welfare payments. In May, 18,600 new requests were registered, compared with 19,661 in April. According to NII officials, the slight drop signifies a stabilization and attenuation in the wave of unemployment that began in the wake of the global financial crisis earlier this year. Nevertheless, the level is still 60% higher than in May 2008. "The data for May show that there was a slight drop and stabilizing trend in the number of welfare requests, but the level is still high," NII CEO Ester Dominisini explained Wednesday morning, but added, "We must wait for data on employment and other indicators as to the market's condition to determine whether this is really a change of trend." Earlier this week, the Employment Service presented its data for April, which pointed to a rise of 0.5% in the number of new job seekers, a figure which signifies an overall 6.9% unemployment rate. The data was in line with the NII's findings, which pointed to an improvement in conditions in May compared with April. The Welfare Ministry announced this week that it formulated a series of relief measures related to unemployment welfare payments and these went into effect in the beginning of June. Until now, an unemployed person was entitled to receive welfare payments only if he/she worked during 12 months of the 18 months preceding the submission of the request. According to the new regulations, people who worked for nine months of the previous 18 will also be entitled to collect benefit.