Israeli Unemployment Jumps to 16.5%

Israeli police officers wearing face masks and surgical gloves for fear of the coronavirus, prevent people who do not live in the Old City of Yerushalayim from entering the area on Friday. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

After many months of record-low unemployment, more than 500,000 Israelis are out of a job right now – 16.5% of the workforce, the Employment Service said Sunday. The number of those filing for unemployment benefits has quadrupled over the past month.

To blame, of course, is coronavirus, which has shuttered many service business, restaurants and places of entertainment, malls, hotels, and many other businesses. Most of those filing for benefits are on “vacation without pay,” basically laid off, and the expectation is that many will return to work when the crisis is past.

Analysts told Kan News that if the current trends continue, there could be a million unemployed Israelis by the end of the week, but the Employment Service said in its report that the number of new filings has been tapering off in recent days, as most of the businesses that were required to close already did so earlier last week, and their employees filed for benefits. On the other hand, the Service said, there were probably a substantial number of workers who already lost their job but have been unable to file for benefits because of the heavy traffic on the signup site.

“We continue to improve and expand our technological capabilities, and the Service has been accepting tens of thousands applications in recent days,” said Rami Grauer, Director of the Employment Service. “Anyone who signs up by March 26 will have his benefits awarded retroactively to the beginning of the week. We are aware of the difficulties that many job-seekers and employers are having connecting with us, and we will do everything possible to develop solutions during the coronavirus crisis, which will be with us for the coming period,” he added.