Jobless rate in France at highest level since 1999

Things got a whole lot worse for France on the unemployment front on Thursday with new figures showing the jobless rate had risen to 10.6 percent, the highest level since 1999. The level of unemployment among young people hit 25.7 percent.

Jobless rate in France at highest level since 1999
An advert at a Pôle Emploi (job centre) in Paris. Photo: The Local

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.

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.

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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.