Israel’s unemployment soars to over 1 million – one quarter of workforce

One in every four Israelis unemployed, economic crisis caused by worldwide pandemic worsens as government tries to implement $23 billion rescue plan.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The coronavirus crisis passed a new milestone Wednesday as the number of unemployed Israelis passed one million – one in every four members of the workforce, Ynet reported.

The country’s previously robust economy has been sent into shock. The unemployment rate, an envious 3.4 percent in December, has rocketed to 24.1 percent and is expected to go higher, the report said.

By Wednesday morning the total number of active job seekers in Israel stood at 1,004,316 – a massive increase of 843,945 since the start of the month given the country’s relatively small population of 9.2 million.

Almost half of those who are now registered as jobless are under the age of 35, raising fears that after the crisis unemployment among young people will stay relatively high in Israel, as it is in some European countries.

With all unemployment offices closed to prevent the spread of infection, those laid off or fired are registering online in accelerating numbers. On Tuesday 35,668 workers registered with the national employment service, 49 percent more than the previous day.

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The government is encouraging unpaid leave instead to avoid wholesale firings, a move that allows workers to maintain eligibility for benefits.

The blackest day in the history of the Israeli labor market was Thursday, March 19, when 127,464 registered as unemployed.

The last half of March produced a worrying phenomenon: compared to the first two weeks of the crisis when just five percent of the newly unemployed were fired outright, in the past two weeks that figure rose to 9 percent.

The increase in firings signals that some employers do not expect to restore their workforce, a phenomenon that could be related to the growing rise in bankruptcies, Ynet reported.

On Monday Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon announced a $23 billion aid package to help Israeli workers and businesses survive the pandemic crisis.