The United Nations labor agency said Friday that unemployment among Palestinian workers had hit a peak of 224,000 during the year 2004, indicating that approximately half the Palestinian population still live in poverty, and the situation is getting worse.

The report released by ILO on Friday "observed a prevailing feeling that the economic situation of Palestinians must improve in order for them to continue to support the policy of dialogue and negotiation with Israel,"

The unemployment figure was up from the previous recalculated record of 203,000 a year earlier.

The agency defines unemployed as people without a job actively looking for work.

In 2004, less than half of all men and fewer than 10 percent of women in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were actively employed, the report said.

According to the report, unemployment has increased primarily due to the closures, checkpoints, roadblocks, permits and other aspects of Israeli occupation that hinder Palestinians from working.

"Any economy is dependent on movement; The Palestinians basically cannot move their goods or export." said Philippe Egger, one of the authors of the report.
The report urged Israel to relax restrictions on the movement of Palestinian persons, goods, and vehicles.

"Without such measures, the issue of poverty in Palestinian territories will persist and lasting peace in the region will remain elusive," the report said.