Israel has fully vaccinated more than half its population, getting shots in arms at a pace that is far ahead of any other nation. So what has it done for Israel’s economy?
The question is a vital one, as world leaders have staked the recovery on the notion that vaccines will help bring back jobs and restart the global economy.
When Barron’s has checked in on Israel’s economic progress in recent weeks, there has been little to see. Israel’s unemployment rate, using the broadest category of unemployed as defined by the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics, was 18.4% in January, up from 13.2% in December.
But that lack of economic progress was due, at least in part, to a strict lockdown that began in late December. Virtually all public spaces and stores were closed. Israel finally lifted the lockdown in early March.
That isn’t long enough ago for the lifting of those restrictions to make a huge dent in the unemployment data. But Israel’s economic picture does look a bit better than it did a few weeks ago.
On Monday, the Central Bureau of Statistics issued an unemployment report for February, reporting that 16.7% of the labor force was unemployed that month, under the broadest definition used by the bureau, down from January.
Even more positive is mobility data from Google, which in a March 16 report showed that visits to retail and recreation sites were only 15% below a baseline set in early 2020. Just weeks ago, on Feb. 20, Google said that visits to retail and recreation sites in Israel were 49% below the baseline.
Israel’s TA-35 index, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange’s benchmark index, is up 8.5% since the vaccination campaign began on Dec. 18, trailing behind the
which is up 10.3% over the same period.
This comes as Israel continues to make significant progress in its vaccination campaign. The country has fully vaccinated 50.2% of its population, according to Bloomberg, and given at least one dose to 57.1%.
The country continues to face criticism for its decision not to include Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza in its vaccination campaign, though it did recently begin vaccinating Palestinian laborers who work in Israel and in West Bank settlements.
Israel has reported 6,098 Covid-19 deaths. On Monday, Israeli media said that on Sunday, the positive test rate had hit the lowest level since November.
Write to Josh Nathan-Kazis at [email protected]