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France's jobless rate approaches record high

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France's jobless rate approaches record high
People queue at a Pole emploi (job centre) in September 2012. Photo: Jacques Demarthon/AFP
18:54 CET+01:00
France's jobless total rose for a 57th consecutive month in February, pushing the number of unemployed up to within a whisker of the record 3.19 million reached in 1997, new figures revealed on Tuesday.

The much-anticipated unemployment figures for February were released by the France's Labour Ministry on Tuesday evening, which showed the number of unemployed in the Eurozone's second-largest economy now stands at 3,187,700.

That figure is just 7,800 away from the record of 3,195,500, reached in 1997.

The numbers will come as a major challenge for Socialist President François Hollande, who has pledged to curb the unemployment rate from the current level of more than 10 percent to a single-digit figure by December.

In the last month, France added 18,400 to its jobless ranks - a rise of 0.6 percent since January.

Workers aged over 50 had been worst hit by unemployment in February, according to the ministry.

Tuesday’s statistics also mean that the French economy has been steadily adding to its number of unemployed since May, 2008, making February the 57th consecutive monthly rise in the jobless total.

The latest figures come amid a constant drip of bleak economic news in France. 

In something of a sign of the times on Monday, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced that 2,000 additional posts had been created at the Pôle Emploi – France’s national employment agency, in order to keep up with the rise in the number of jobseekers.

Earlier in March, the official INSEE statistics agency revealed that France had lost 100,000 private sector jobs in 2012 alone. The same report noted that joblessness had risen to 10.6 percent, its highest rate in almost 14 years. 

A separate INSEE report on March 7th showed the level of unemployment among young people hit 25.7 percent.

Earlier on Tuesday, Ayrault had attempted to send out a rallying cry in advance of this evening's dismal figures, calling for "a united effort on jobs" in France's National Assembly.

The prime minister invited businesses, local communities and associations to pursue different plans to put the country's economy back on track, including using a variety of contract types, to boost hiring.

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