Jobless rate falls to lowest in 10 years
The rate slid from 7.7% in December, the Central Bureau of Statistics said in Tuesday. The jobless rate has fallen from a peak of 10.9% at the end of 2003.
Unemployment is declining as the economy enters its fifth year of growth and after the government cut social benefits in a bid to force the jobless to find work.
The Bank of Israel on Monday revised its growth forecast for 2007 up to 5.1%, from an earlier 4.6%, citing the rapid drop in unemployment as one of the primary reasons for increased optimism.
"The unemployment figures show the continued fast growth in the economy and will help fuel consumer demand," said Avinoam Nachum, chief economist at Clal Finance Batucha Investment Management Ltd. "Despite the drop in unemployment, there is still no inflationary pressure in the labor market."
The central bank said Monday that it expects the jobless rate to fall to an average of 7.5% this year, revised down from the earlier forecast of 8.1%. Unemployment averaged 8.4% last year.
Israeli unemployment levels are still above the average for OECD countries of about 6 percent, Ohad Marani, chairman of Oil Refineries Ltd., and the head of the Manufacturers' Association economics committee, said Monday.
"Even if the economy were to grow at a pace of 6.5 percent per year, it would take six years to reach the unemployment levels of the developed countries," Marani said.
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