The unemployment rate in Israel climbed to 6.9% during the month of March, with some 246,000 unemployed people in the labor force, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) reported on Monday.
March's figures are 1.2% higher than the average rate for 2011, and represent a 0.4% increase from February, which noted a 6.5% unemployment rate.
Despite the worrying figures, the sharp increase in unemployment rate was not caused by a mass wave of dismissals, but rather by imposing a new, more precise calculation method, at the request of the OECD.
Beginning in January 2012, the Central Bureau of Statistics has followed the new calculation method, which brought the unemployment rate in Israel from 5.4% at the end of 2011 to a whopping 6.5%.
The new method considers regular and career soldiers as part of the employed labor force. According to the OECD standards, unemployed people must be over 15 years old and actively looking for a job.
Another significant change is the frequency of measurement: Under the new system, unemployment rates are reported every month instead of every three months, which significantly raises the number of respondents.
"In effect, the unemployment rate hasn't increased," said Director of the Labor Sector at the CBS Mark Feldman. "The monthly measurements show more fluctuations, so we are expecting more changes every month. We need to wait and see what the trend is over a longer period of time," he added.
The Bank of Israel commented on the increase in unemployment rate, stating that "The new survey method worsens Israel's standing by international comparison, but still positions it in a relatively good place compared with most developed countries."