Tuesday, January 25th | 23 Shevat 5782

March 24, 2020 3:24 pm

One Million Israelis Could Be Unemployed by End of Passover Due to Coronavirus Shutdown

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

People walk past closed stores inside a shopping center in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 15, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Nir Elias.

The number of unemployed in Israel has reached 600,000, the Israeli Employment Service announced Tuesday, with thousands losing their jobs as businesses close due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Israeli news site Walla reported that the unemployment rate now stood at 18.6% and the Employment Service estimated that there would be one million unemployed by the end of the Passover holiday in mid-April.

The number of those registering as unemployed is skyrocketing, with 127,464 signing up on last Thursday, 67,115 on Friday and 54,305 on Sunday.

Rami Garor — CEO of the Employment Service — said, “There was another slowdown in new registrants yesterday. However, we estimate that by Passover we will reach about one million new job-seekers due to the corona crisis.”

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“This is partly due to announcements from leading companies in Israel about the closure of branches and centers,” he added.

He said the Employment Service was working with the National Insurance Institute to get unemployment benefits to citizens as quickly as possible.

Regarding the overall economic situation, Amir Yaron — governor of the Bank of Israel — warned on Tuesday that the damage would be difficult to fix once the crisis was over.

“The longer the scenario takes, the exit will be deeper and more difficult,” he said.

Michel Strawczynski — director of the Research Department at the Bank of Israel — said that additional restrictions could increase the economic damage to NIS 100 billion ($27.75 billion) and GDP could fall by 2.5%, while putting enormous pressure on government expenditures.

“The government deficit will rise, and is expected to reach about 7% of GDP,” he said.

Hedva Ber — supervisor of banks at the Bank of Israel — said banks must “help businesses and get through the crisis as easily as possible,” but extending credit to failing businesses could be difficult.

“You can’t do it automatically,” she said. “You have to check the risks, you have to check that those you give credit can repay it after the crisis.”

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