Israel’s unemployment rate inching down to near pre-COVID levels

Employment Service says 163,800 Israelis registered as out of work; Central Bureau of Statistics report shows overall unemployment down to 5.4%

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

View of the Israeli Employment Service offices in Jerusalem on December 30, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
View of the Israeli Employment Service offices in Jerusalem on December 30, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel’s overall unemployment rate dipped slightly in February to 5.4%, from 5.6% in January, according to a new report published Monday by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), as the country continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The overall rate includes people who were dismissed or whose workplaces have closed since March 2020 due to the pandemic, as well as those on unpaid leave who expect to return to their workplaces.

The unemployment rate excluding those affected by the pandemic stood at 3.7% in February, the same rate as January, and close to pre-pandemic levels of approximately 3.5%, according to CBS.

A total of 237,300 Israelis were not working in February, according to CBS figures, which showed that the number stood at 244,000 in January. Before the pandemic, an estimated 150,000 Israelis were unemployed.

A CBS report (Hebrew) from last week showed that there were roughly 140,000 job vacancies nationwide, indicating a gap between employers and job-seekers.

A separate report published on Tuesday by the Israeli Employment Service showed that 163,800 people were registered as unemployed in February, around the same amount as there were two years ago when COVID-19 first reached the country.

This discrepancy between CBS figures and the Israeli Employment Service appears to be the number of people registered with the latter and receiving services.

According to Israeli Employment Service data, the number of unemployed people in Israel is nearly back down to levels last seen just before the coronavirus pandemic.

The data showed a drop of 2.9 percent from the number of unemployed in January, the previous month. There were 23,402 new jobseekers registered during February, down from 29,323 in January, the data showed.

The ratio of jobseekers to available positions is 1.1, the lowest it has been since 2009, meaning there are open positions for most unemployed people.

However, many of those seeking employment are not qualified to fill the available positions, which are largely in the tech industry and require academic education or previous experience.

At the beginning of 2021, amid widespread pandemic restriction on the economy, the were 12 jobseekers for every available position. Just before the start of the pandemic in early 2020, the ratio was 1.7 jobseekers for every opening.

COVID-19 is still taking its toll on the economy, with 23,100 people missing work during the second half of the month due to the virus, including for illness and quarantine, according to the employment service.

As lockdown measures shuttered public venues in 2020 the number of people out of work in Israel sky-rocketed, reaching over a million in April of that year, over 24% unemployment, the highest rate ever.

As Israel has in recent months exited its fifth wave of COVID-19 infections, most restrictions have been lifted, opening up the economy. However, recent days have seen a rapid rise in the number of cases, raising fears the country could be heading toward a sixth wave.

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