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'Commercial and services sectors lower unemployment'

January 24, 2007. Jerusalem Post: Seth Freedman

The commercial and services sectors contributed NIS 247 billion to the total value of Israeli trade last year, an increase of NIS 17.7b. over 2005's figure, logging growth of 7.9 percent, compared with a 6.3% rise in total trade, according to the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce.

FICC president Uriel Lynn flagged the higher rate of increase as a sign that the two sectors are essential to reducing unemployment nationwide.

"Only these sectors are capable of producing new jobs to the extent that the economy needs, thus lowering the level of unemployment," Lynn said, noting that, between them, the commercial and services sectors contributed 57,000 new jobs to the local economy.

The total value of Israeli trade last year was NIS 384b., making the contribution from the commercial and services group 65% of the total. In 2005, the ratio was 64%, implying that the two sectors are growing at a faster rate than the other areas of Israeli trade.

Separately, data released by the Manufacturers Association of Israel revealed a 1% rise in textile exports between 2005 and 2006. The total value of Israeli textiles exported overseas reached $1.085b. last year, with a rise in exports to Europe offsetting a decrease in sales to the US.

There was a marked increase in exports to Arab states, with a 52% rise to $76 million. US exports fell by 8% to $524m., representing half of the total exports, while European sales were up 9% to $346m. Exports to Asia fell 6% to $42.5m., while Latin American sales gained 29% to $13.3m.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Export Institute reported that 2006 saw positive signs for cross-border trade between Israel and the rest of the world, noting that a 20% increase in the number of foreign business delegations visiting Israel to discuss trade meant that there were around 2,500 meetings between Israeli businessman and their foreign counterparts during the year.

The Institute is preparing to increase the number of Israeli delegations going abroad to discuss potential trade by 16% this year. This would see 100 delegations travel overseas, representing around 1,050 Israeli companies.

In 2006, the number of delegations coming to Israel from the Far East rose 77% to 39 from 22, while there were 50 delegations from Europe, up 16% on the previous year. US and Canadian delegation numbers, however, were down 15% to just 15 during 2006.

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