Nearly a quarter of Israel’s workforce unemployed due to virus outbreak
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Nearly a quarter of Israel’s workforce unemployed due to virus outbreak

Over 23% of Israeli workers are seeking jobless benefits, after over 800,000 laid off in past month, including 24,000 who filed on Monday

Closed stores in the empty Mamila Mall in Jerusalem, March 23, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Closed stores in the empty Mamila Mall in Jerusalem, March 23, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The unemployment rate climbed to 23.4 percent on Tuesday with over 800,000 Israelis put out of work in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Some 24,000 newly out of work Israelis registered for unemployment on Monday.

Among those seeking state benefits, 89.8% have been placed on unpaid leave by their workplaces, while 6.3% were fired, according to the National Employment Service.

The month of March was one of the worst for Israel’s job market in its history. Only a month ago, before the coronavirus outbreak, unemployment in Israel was at a record low of under 4%.

Some 812,000 Israelis were put out of work since the start of the crisis. There are now 969,693 Israelis seeking unemployment benefits, counting the 160,000 who were already on unemployment before the crisis.

The staggering figure amounts to nearly one quarter of Israel’s workforce.

The rate has been slowing, however. In the early weeks of the outbreak, some 7,000 Israelis were registering every hour, crashing the National Employment Service’s website.

The Central Bureau of Statistics will publish separate data on unemployment, which is the official rate, and is likely to be slightly lower than the National Employment Service’s figures.

Employment Service director general Rami Garor said the service would on Sunday complete the procedure of processing and handing over the details of 734,049 people to the National Insurance Institute, the body that pays out the benefits, “so that the citizens of Israel will be able to receive the unemployment benefits they are entitled to as quickly as possible, even before Passover.”

Last week, Garor said he expected around 20% of the newly unemployed would not have a job to go back to when the crisis ends and lockdown measures are eventually lifted.

While salaried workers are covered up to 75% of their earnings for a limited period of time, Israel’s self-employed workers are not entitled to unemployment benefits. The government is working on a package that is expected to give some 175,000 self-employed people a grant of up to NIS 6,000 ($1,675) with an average expected payment of NIS 4,300 ($1,200).

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