Israel’s unemployment rate is rising again as new statistics showed that twice as many people applied for unemployment benefits as were hired in the past day, the Employment Authority announced on Thursday.

With more than one out of every five Israelis out of work, the latest numbers show there are 853,843 job seekers registered with the employment service, of which 575,163 are on unpaid leave from industries hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The national unemployment rate stands at 21 percent, a staggering number compared to Israel’s pre-pandemic rate of less than 4 percent.

In the past day the authority received reports of 1,517 returning to work, while at the same time 3,289 others joined the ranks of the unemployed, more than double the number of those returning to work. From a jobless peak of 25 percent at the height of national closures at the beginning of April, there has been a slight improvement since health restrictions eased at the end of the first wave of infections.

While 402,746 Israelis have returned to work since the economy started reopening, another 158,266 new job seekers registered with the employment service.
The second wave of corona infections has reached the point that the government is not hiding the fact that new shutdowns may be required, driving fears the unemployment rate could shoot back up.

“I suggest we start talking about full closure. If within three days we do not see a change in morbidity – we will have to get there,” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said.

The minister said that he didn’t expect his outlook to change “unless a miracle happens.”