A Million Workers in Israel May be Unemployed by End of Pandemic

The head of Israel’s Employment Service said on Friday, March 20, that the number of unemployed in Israel could reach one million if the corona virus pandemic causes layoffs to continue at the current pace. “If it continues at this rate, we will probably reach one million unemployed, a quarter of the workers in the economy,” Rami Grauer told the Ynet news site. “It appears that some 20% of those who are currently on unpaid leave will be unemployed at the end of the crisis.” Israel has seen a surge in unemployment applications in recent weeks as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on the national economy and global capitalism.

El Al workers demonstrate near the company's headquarters at Ben Gurion Airport after the company announced massive layoffs,Thursday, March 12, 2020.

El Al workers demonstrate near the company’s headquarters at Ben Gurion Airport after the company announced massive layoffs, Thursday, March 12, 2020. (Photo: Histadrut)

Since the beginning of March, when the virus’s effects began to take their toll on Israel, some 476,000 workers filed for unemployment, as opposed to 25,576 new job seekers who registered in February and 23,173 who signed up in January. On Wednesday, 66,000 workers filed for unemployment between 12 am and 12 pm — an average rate of 5,000 an hour — crashing the Employment Service’s website.

The National Insurance Institute expects to see between 500,000 and 1.2 million Israelis unemployed due to the crisis, National Insurance Director Meir Shpigler said on Wednesday, March 18. The significance of the various estimates means that unemployment among non-self employed Israelis will range between 13% and 32%. Before the crisis, the service supported some 80,000 people on average.

Major employers released most of their staffs this past week, including El Al, which put 5,500 workers — over 80% of its staff — on unpaid leave, and Castro, Israel’s largest closing chain, which placed 6,000 on unpaid leave. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange has plummeted since the start of the crisis, similar to the steep loses in other markets around the world.