Israel´s jobless rate leaps as the counting changes (REUTERS) By Steven Scheer JERSALEM, ISRAEL 04/30/12 11:22am EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - Israel´s move to bring its economic statistics in line
with leading Western countries has led to a far bleaker picture of
its jobs market, undermining claims that the country is riding
through the global crisis with relative ease.
The Central Bureau of Statistics on Monday unveiled a new employment
survey - a reworking of past surveys - that showed a first-quarter
jobless rate of 6.7 percent.
It compared with fourth-quarter rate of 5.4 percent using the old
system, a number that was touted at the time as being the lowest
level in three decades.
According to the new survey, the jobless rate in the last three
months of 2011 should have been 6.8 percent.
Officials were quick to say that there has not actually been a spike
"There wasn´t a change in the economy. The numbers just reflect
better coverage of the labor market," Yoel Finkel, Israel´s associate
statistician, told Reuters. "There has been a change in the level but
not the trend. It´s still one of the lowest in the world."
The bureau made nearly 40 changes in surveying the labor market, from
adding soldiers to including 100 more cities and towns and conducting
the survey monthly rather than quarterly.
"These numbers are more comparable to the OECD," Finkel said,
referring to the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation
and Development, the rich nations´ economic think tank.
Israeli media reported that the new data took the central bank by
surprise while private economists were also perplexed by the
difference in count.
HSBC economist Jonathan Katz said that by adding the military alone,
the jobless rate should have gone down since 100 percent of soldiers
are considered employed.
"For the past few years, everyone was scratching their heads as to
why wages were not going up and why there were no inflation pressures
from the labor market because the previous unemployment rates showed
Israel at full employment," Katz said.
"Now ... there is some slack in the labor force," he said. "It now
makes more sense -- but I don´t know what they were measuring before."
STILL COMPARES WELL
The Bank of Israel said that even with the jump in joblessness, the
country was doing comparatively well.
"The unemployment rates calculated according to the new method
worsens Israel´s position relative to other countries, but still
leave it in a relatively favorably positioned compared with many
other advanced economies," it said.
In 2011, the average unemployment rate in OECD countries averaged 7.9
percent and is projected to fall to 7.4 percent this year. For
Europe, which is struggling under the weight of a widening debt
crisis, the numbers are well above 9 percent.
Previous data has also shown that Israel, with a population of less
than 7.9 million, had a smaller than usual labor force with a
participation rate of around 58 percent. Officials have bemoaned the
fact that most ultra-Orthodox men and Arab women do not work and are
seeking to bring these large groups into the workforce.
Data from the new survey also showed that the labor participation
rate of those over 15 years of age was 63 percent in March, very
close to the OECD average.
(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell. Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.) (©
Thomson Reuters 2012. 04/30/12)
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