Unemployment falls to 8.9%

Israel's unemployment rate fell to 8.9 percent in the third quarter, in seasonally adjusted terms, with 245,000 individuals out of work, the Central Bureau of Statistics said Monday. This is the first time unemployment of the country's work force has dropped below 9% since the second quarter of 2001. Since its 10.9% peak in November and December 2003, unemployment has been falling steadily, but had stayed at 9.1% from March to August. Nearly 1.65 million Israelis were working in full-time positions (35 hours or more) in seasonally adjusted terms, 0.4% more than in the second quarter, while the number of part-time workers rose 0.8% to 689,700. Separately, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer raised the shekel interest rate for December by one half of a percentage point to 4.5%, citing a need to keep inflation within the government's price stability target for the year. Israel Institute for Economic Social Research chairman Roby Nathanson attacked Fischer's decision, arguing that "such an interest rate will not allow us to bring down unemployment."