The Employment Service announced on Sunday that over 260,000 people were added to the unemployment rolls over the past month — since the Jewish festival of Rosh Hashanah and the start of the national lockdown that was partially lifted Sunday.
There were 261,624 new jobseekers registered since September 17, of whom 228,122 were furloughed, or placed on unpaid leave.
Of those, 188,101 were registering as unemployed for the second or more time since the start of the spread of the coronavirus in Israel in March.
As of Sunday, 980,370 Israelis were unemployed in total — almost a quarter of the workforce, which numbers some 4 million — including 628,344 who were furloughed.
During the first outbreak of the virus, in the spring, the unemployment figures issued by the service spiked as 800,000 people quickly lost work in Israel’s initial lockdown.
As the outbreak subsided, some people were able to return to work, but later, with infections surging again, the government imposed fresh restrictions and the joblessness rate again spiked.
Israel began on Sunday to emerge from its month-long lockdown.
As of Sunday morning, Israelis can once again travel more than one kilometer from home and visit others’ homes so long as caps on gatherings are adhered to (10 indoors, 20 outdoors). Preschools and daycares can reopen; restaurants are allowed to offer takeout food; businesses that don’t receive customers can open; people can visit beaches and national parks; and the Western Wall plaza and Temple Mount compound will reopen for worship under certain restrictions.
Many business owners had decried the shutdown as a fatal blow to their livelihoods, which suffered greatly during the first lockdown in March.
In a sign of the difficulties faced by financially devastated small business owners, a protest was held last week in Tel Aviv in which several shopkeepers threw their merchandise into the street and set fire to it.
Several days before that, video footage went viral of a Tel Aviv shoe store owner, bankrupted by two lockdowns, shutting down his store for good and emptying his merchandise onto the sidewalk for passersby to scavenge through.
The government has provided unemployment stipends to those who lost their jobs, as well as periodic grants to independent businesses, but many have said these allowances are woefully insufficient to cover their everyday needs and soaring expenses.