April 30, 2020 / 11:45 AM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Israel Q1 jobless rate dips despite coronavirus outbreak

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TEL AVIV, April 30 (Reuters) - Israel’s jobless rate dipped to 3.5% in the first quarter from 3.7% in the final three months of 2019, with workers on unpaid leave due to the coronavirus outbreak not considered unemployed, the Central Bureau of Statistics said on Thursday.

Israel’s economy is slowly re-opening, but it has been hard hit by a government lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. Stringent restrictions have largely confined Israelis to their homes, forcing businesses to close and leading to more than 1.1 million people filing jobless claims, which would be equal to a jobless rate of about 27%.

“According to the survey definitions, the vast majority of employees who were put on vacation without pay during March 2020 are considered to be employed persons temporarily absent from work,” the statistics bureau said, noting that corresponds to international standards.

In March, the number of those employed who were temporarily absent from work all week surged to 893,700 from 166,800 in February, while the number of those absent from work part of the week rose to 816,900 in March from 235,900 in February — or 43% of total employed persons, it said.

Industries hit hardest from people on unpaid leave were arts, entertainment and recreation, education, accommodation and food service, and electricity supply.

Israel’s labour force participation rate fell to 62.8% in the first quarter from 63.1% in the fourth quarter while the employment rate edged down to 60.7%, the bureau said.

It said close to 97% of its interviews were conducted by phone last month versus nearly 87% in February. (Reporting by Steven Scheer; editing by Tova Cohen, Larry King)

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