Israel's unemployment rate dropped to 8.6 percent in the first quarter of the year, with 203,000 people out of work, the central statistics bureau said Thursday.
The figures, based on an active population of 1.2 million, compared with a jobless rate of 8.9 percent or 211,000 people at the end of 1999.
Finance Minister Avraham Shohat said the decline reflected the rebound in the economy, but said the figures should be treated with caution.
"We have to see if these figures are confirmed over the course of the coming months," he said.
Economic growth reached 4.5 percent in annual terms in the first quarter of the year, powered by growth in exports of goods and services as well the high-technology, diamonds and agricultural sectors, the bureau said.
For the year, the Bank of Israel has forecast economic growth at four percent, almost double the 1999 figure of 2.2 percent -- OCCUPID JERUSALEM (AFP)
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