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French unemployment rate hits new record

AFP/The Local · 27 Jan 2014, 18:19

Published: 27 Jan 2014 18:19 GMT+01:00

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France revealed on Monday that the number of registered jobless rose to a record 3.3 million in December, belying President Francois Hollande's pledge to reverse the trend by the end of last year.

The number of job-seekers rose by 10,200, the labour ministry said. If those holding part-time employment were taken into account the number of unemployed rose to 4.89 million, another record.

A slight fall in the number of unemployed for October had raised government hopes that France may have finally turned a corner in its years-long jobs crisis.

Hollande, a Socialist who is under fierce pressure to tackle unemployment and with polls showing his approval ratings the lowest of any president in modern French history, claimed in November he had met his electoral pledge to halt the rise in joblessness by the end of 2013.

Despite the bleak figures, Hollande - who is currently in Turkey - said that unemployment had "stabilized" but added that "this is not enough."

The labour ministry said the average quarterly rise in unemployment had fallen from 33,000 at the start of last year to 2,500 at the end of 2013.

"The inversion of the unemployment curve for all age groups has not been achieved in the last quarter although we were very close to that," the ministry said.

The ministry said the number of unemployed youths aged under 25 had steadily fallen over eight months. Jobless figures of those aged between 25 and 50 had also stated falling in the last quarter but this was not the case for those aged 50 and above.

After the figures were announced, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault stressed the need to move "further, faster and more strongly" to fight unemployment.

"The unemployment figures bear proof that there has been a clear reduction in joblessness among the youth" but added that more efforts would have to be made to cover other age groups.

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The new figures came as the government opened talks to flesh out a "Responsibility Pact" proposed by Hollande that would offer businesses tax cuts in return for more jobs.

Hollande said there would be €30 billion ($41 billion) in cuts to payroll taxes and further efforts to balance public finances with €50 billion in spending cuts over three years to kickstart growth and revitalize the eurozone's second economy.

There have been few details on how the government would pay for lowering taxes and which spending would be cut, and officials insisted France would meet its EU obligations to reduce its public deficit.

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

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