Unemployment in Israel climbed by almost half a percent during March, the Central Bureau of Statistics said in a press conference on Monday, but the shift was due to a recent change in research methods.

According to the chief government statistician, Professor Shlomo Yitzhaki, Israel started using the OECD’s methods of calculating unemployment rates, and as a result the numbers have changed, rising from 6.5 percent in February to 6.9% in March. Just under a quarter million Israelis are jobless, Yitzhaki said.

Shlomo Yitzhaki (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)

Shlomo Yitzhaki (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)

“There was no change in the employment or unemployment rate,” Yitzhaki told reporters. What the numbers reflect is a change in the methodology, not in the economic situation in the country, he said.

Among the differences implemented in order to match OECD regulations, Israel now measures all those employed, not only the civilian sector. IDF soldiers and officers are now included in the surveys.

Other measuring methods that have been changed include moving to a monthly poll and a new geographical breakdown, which shows smaller towns and villages on their own as opposed to grouping them together.

“Now we can compare ourselves to other countries,” Yitzhaki said. When addressing the concern that adding military personnel into the numbers could reveal the true size of the army, he said all security forces were counted as public sector employees, blurring their real numbers.