Unemployment hits 17.6% amid wave of coronavirus layoffs
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Unemployment hits 17.6% amid wave of coronavirus layoffs

Some 573,000 newly out of work since beginning of March as entire industries shut down; officials expect cost of benefits to top NIS 3 billion

People outside the unemployment bureau in Jerusalem. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
People outside the unemployment bureau in Jerusalem. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Israel’s unemployment rate increased to 17.6 percent Monday as 62,000 people registered with the unemployment service, bringing the total number of newly unemployed in March to 573,000.

The 24-hour figures represent a rate of some 2,600 people an hour registering with the service, a slowdown from last Thursday’s record of around 7,000 people an hour.

Some 90% of people registering with the service have been placed on unpaid leave and the unemployment service expects 10%-20% of those registered to lose their jobs on a permanent basis when the coronavirus crisis comes to an end.

The crisis has hit the tourism, restaurant and aviation sectors particularly hard, with layoff and unpaid leave seen across the board. Around 49% of those fired or sent on unpaid leave are below the age of 35, while women have also been hit disproportionately, accounting for 62% of the unemployed, compared with 55% in 2019.

An unnamed senior economic official told the Hebrew-language Walla news site that the cost of unemployment payments could top NIS 3 billion ($813 million) or more.

“The month has yet to end and we don’t even know the wage composition of all those seeking unemployment benefits. The cost could hit NIS 3 billion and it could be more,” he said.

“This kind of event has never occurred before in Israel. Entire industries have been shut down,” he continued.

The average cost of unemployment benefits paid out by the National Insurance Institute prior to the crisis, when unemployment levels were at record lows, under 4%, was some NIS 320 million per month, with an average payout of NIS 6,500.

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