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Jobless rate in France at highest level since 1999

The Local/AFP · 7 Mar 2013, 10:18

Published: 07 Mar 2013 10:18 GMT+01:00

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A week never seems to go by in France without data being revealed about the scale of France 's ever-worsening unemployment crisis.

On Thursday the national statistics agency INSEE once again released stats that spell bad news for the French government.

They showed that unemployment in the eurozone's second-largest economy increased by 0.4 percentage points from 10.2 percent in third quarter of last year to 10.6 percent in the final quarter.

The figures also revealed that the jobless rate for France Metropolitaine, which excludes all the country's overseas territories, had crashed through the symbolic 10 percent barrier, to reach 10.2 percent - the highest level since 1999.

And with the rate set to rise further throughout 2013, the level of unemployment could threaten the recent record set in spring 1997 when it hit 11 percent .

INSEE's report comes just days after the government released its own monthly unemployment figures, measured using different criteria, which revealed 3.16 million French people were out of work.

French President François Hollande has said that reducing the rising unemployment rate is one of his main objectives and has vowed to halt the increase by the end of 2013 in what he called the "great battle for jobs".

Many doubt it will be achieved but Labour Minister Michel Sapin insists everything will be done to make it happen.

For him Hollande's target was not "just a statement made out of thin air, a wish or a promise. It is about mobilizing all of our tools for the job at hand."

The French government is currently discussing reforms to France's strict labour laws, which ministers hope will make the market more flexible and easier for your people to find work.

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Mounting economic problems have already forced Hollande to abandon a goal to reduce the fiscal deficit to 3 percent in line with European Union norms after slashing this year's growth forecast.

His government is struggling with weak growth, poor competitiveness, thousands of layoffs and general economic gloom.

Hollande has however rejected undertaking massive additional austerity measures this year, arguing they would only slow growth and further aggravate the country's finances.

The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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