Number of jobless Israelis nears 1 million, but rate of increase slows

Since beginning of March, 764,165 people registered for unemployment benefits, bringing rate to 22.15%; 32,577 signed up during weekend, 3 times fewer than a week ago

A general view of closed stores on Jaffa Road in downtown Jerusalem on March 26, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A general view of closed stores on Jaffa Road in downtown Jerusalem on March 26, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel’s unemployment rate reached 22.15 percent on Sunday after it continued to climb over the weekend, albeit at a slower pace than in recent weeks.

The National Employment Service said 32,577 new job seekers had signed up on Friday and Saturday, one-third the 98,471 who did so throughout the previous weekend.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, unemployment in Israel was at a record low of under 4%. But since the beginning of March, a total of 764,165 Israelis have become jobless, with 90% of them on leave without pay. Including those who had been unemployed before that, the number is 922,016, nearing the 1 million mark.

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.”

Head of Employment Service Rami Garor interviewed on March 20, 2020 (Screen grab/Ynet)

Garor said the Employment Service would complete the transfer of data of all those who registered for unemployment benefits by the end of the month.

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 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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