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Unemployment drops as businesses return from lockdown

Central Bureau of Statistics says 14.6% of Israelis were without work in November, down from 18% in October

People wearing a face mask walk in the Jerusalem city center on November 29, 2020, as Israel steps out of its coronavirus lockdown and rolls back restrictions. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
People wearing a face mask walk in the Jerusalem city center on November 29, 2020, as Israel steps out of its coronavirus lockdown and rolls back restrictions. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israel’s unemployment rate dropped from 18 percent in October to 14.6% in November, according to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics.

The drop came after some 130,000 Israelis returned to work as the country’s second national lockdown was eased.

The number of unemployed currently stands at 603,000, according to the CBS.

As infection rates surged in the summer — after Israel exited a first economic lockdown imposed in the spring to curb the coronavirus spread — the government  imposed a second national lockdown from mid-September to mid-October over the Jewish holiday period. A gradual reopening of the economy then began, even as infections were once again on the rise.

During the first outbreak of the virus, in the spring, the unemployment figures issued by the Employment 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 jobless rate again spiked.

Many business owners had decried the shutdown as a fatal blow to their livelihoods, which suffered greatly during the first lockdown in March.

People shop at the Ayalon Mall in Ramat Gan on November 20, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The broad unemployment rate reached approximately 23% of the labor force in the first half of October, compared with about 11% in the first half of September. With the start of easing the lockdown, the unemployment rate moderated to approximately 18%.

The government has provided unemployment stipends to those who lost their jobs, as well as periodic grants to independent businesses, but many have said that these allowances are woefully insufficient to cover their everyday needs and soaring expenses.

Last week, the OECD projected that Israel’s economy will grow a mere 2.3% in 2021, below the global average, after contracting 4.2% this year, as increased unemployment and a likely rise in insolvencies after the second national lockdown weigh on economic recovery.

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