For the first time this year, the unemployment rate in France edged up in May, according to new statistics.

"/> For the first time this year, the unemployment rate in France edged up in May, according to new statistics.

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France’s jobless figure rises in May

For the first time this year, the unemployment rate in France edged up in May, according to new statistics.

The figures, released on Tuesday, showed an increase in the number of registered jobseekers of 17,700.

The figure was up 0.7 percent from April and 0.3 percent from a year before. The total jobless figure is now 2.7 million and the overall rate stands at 9.2 percent.

The figures were worse for the under-25s, where an increase of 1.3 percent was recorded. At the other end of the age scale, the over-50s saw a 0.9 percent rise.

The news comes at a bad time as President Nicolas Sarkozy tries to boost his low approval rating in the polls.

He announced a series of measures on Monday designed to boost higher education, industry and research.

The Employment Minister, Xavier Bertrand, said in a statement that the overall unemployment rate had still dropped overall since the start of the year.

He added that “the figures for May mean we will redouble our efforts to reduce the number of unemployed.”

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Unemployment in France falls slightly despite the lockdown

Unemployment in France has fallen slightly, despite the ongoing ravages of the health crisis and consequent lockdown, latest statistics show.

Unemployment in France falls slightly despite the lockdown
Photo: Stephane du Sakatin/AFP

The number of unemployed job seekers in mainland France fell by 0.4 percent in the first three months of 2021, according to figures published by the French Ministry of Labour on Tuesday.

There were 3,560,600 unemployed registered at the Pôle Emploi (unemployment office), 12,200 fewer than during the last three months of 2020.

This follows a 2.7 percent fall in the final three months of 2020 – but the rate is still up 6.8 percent compared with the first three months of 2020, before Europe began to feel the economic impact of the Covid pandemic.

Currently all ‘non essential’ shops in France have been closed since April 3rd, while bars, restaurants, cafés, gyms, cinemas, theatres, museums and tourist sites have been closed since October 2020.

Despite the fall the total number of job seekers, the number of people who were in work but with reduced hours was up by 0.8 percent at the start of 2021, to 2,156,300.

That means that in total 5,716,900 people in mainland France were registered with Pôle emploi during this period, an increase of 4.9 percent compared with a year ago.

“Over the course of 2020, in one year, unemployment rose by 8 percent. This is obviously a lot, but we must remember that during the crisis of 2008-2009, unemployment leapt by 25 percent, so we can see that the government assistance is working,” Minister of Labour Élisabeth Borne told BFMTV on Tuesday.

The French government has put together a huge package of economic aid to try and mitigate the effects of the repeated lockdowns, from chômage partiel (furlough) schemes for employees to aid packages for business owners and the self-employed. But many small retailers have been hit hard by the three periods of closure for non-essential shops, while the tourist, leisure and hospitality sectors have also had a devastating year.

The economic downturn linked to the pandemic has disproportionately affected young people in France.  Across all categories of job seekers (unemployed and with reduced hours), the latest figures show a rise of 7.1 percent in a year for those under 25, compared to 4.5 percent for the 25-29 age range, and 4.8 percent for those aged 50 and over.

Men are also more likely to have signed up to Pôle emploi, with a 6.1 percent increase on last year, compared to a 3.8 percent increase among women.