The unemployment rate in Israel has skyrocketed to 16.5 percent, with over 500,000 people losing their jobs since the start of March, the Employment Service said Sunday.
The unemployment rate was 3.6% in the fourth quarter of last year, according to the Bank of Israel.
Many Israeli businesses have been forced to put their staffs on unpaid leave or lay people off as regulations closing borders and restricting movement have obliterated tourism and service industries, leading to thousands of people per day applying for unemployment benefits.
The head of the Employment Service said Friday that the number of unemployed people in Israel could reach one million if the coronavirus pandemic-prompted layoffs continue.
“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 seems that 20% of those who are currently on unpaid leave will be unemployed at the end of the crisis.”