The official rate reached 9.8 percent, up from 9.7 in the previous three months.
Exclusing France’s overseas territories, the rate was 9.4 percent.
French unemployment reached a 12-year high of 2.86 million people in January.
Despite the increase in the number of jobless, employment minister Xavier Bertrand insisted that France had been able to “withstand the global economic crisis better than our major partners.”
He cited Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom as countries that had not fared as well.
The Spanish unemployment rate his 22.8 percent in January, while the UK rate was 8.4 percent.
Although the UK rate is lower than France, Bertrand said OECD figures showed the growth had been higher in all three countries between mid-2007 and the end of 2011.
He said unemployment had grown by 19.7 percent in France in that period, versus 65 percent in the UK, 35 percent in Italy and 183 percent in Spain.
Youth unemployment was up to 22.4 percent in the final quarter of the year, meaning almost one in four young people are looking for work.
A new opinion poll published on Thursday found that more people had confidence in Socialist presidential candidate François Hollande to deal with unemployment than incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy.
57 percent thought Hollande was more credible to fight unemployment than the 30 percent who favoured Sarkozy.
Overall, 54 percent thought Hollande had “more convincing measures on economic matters,” said the survey, versus just 35 percent for the president.
The survey was carried out for BFM TV and Challenges magazine.