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French unemployment rate finally drops: Report

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French unemployment rate finally drops: Report
France had 11,000 fewer job seekers last month, reversing a nine-month trend. Photo: Job seekers photo: Shutterstock
15:32 CEST+02:00
After nine straight months of increases the unemployment rate in France dropped in August, offering the first potentially good news for the country's historically unpopular leader, according to media reports.

After the insults, failures and humiliations that have become all too common for France's president these past months, there appeared to be some good news on Wednesday for François Hollande.

According to unemployment figures leaked to France Television, the number of jobless fell by 11,000 in August, which is the first decrease since October 2013.

After the news broke the Ministry of Finance refused to confirm or deny the numbers, which were due to be officially released at 6pm.

It likely took quite a bit of self-control for a government to keep quiet about good news after so much bad news.

From the minister who publicly badmouth Hollande's economic strategy and prompted a cabinet reshuffle to the tell-all memoir from the president's ex that accused the Socialist of secretly despising poor people, it's been a rough summer. 

But the historically high unemployment rate, with some 3.4 million people out of work, and near zero growth for the French economy have been the true threats to Hollande and his ability to govern the country.

Hollande famously promised to reverse the rising trend of joblessness by the end of 2013, yet the rate has climbed through 2014.

This news comes the same day as France's corporate bosses unveiled their proposals to fix the country's economy, drawing groans and outrage from labour leaders. 

The CEOs believe scrapping two public holidays and loosen the 35-hour week, and a few other changed, would give France the boost it needs.

In the proposal to create one million jobs, which has already been attacked as a "provocation" by labour unions, the MEDEF business group called for a "debate without taboos" over France's "outdated" social model.

"Getting rid of two public holidays per year (out of 11) would extend the average annual working year by 1.2 days, which represents 0.9 percent of gross domestic product and 100,000 extra jobs," MEDEF said.

The group also called for a "revision of the principle that the 35 hours had to be applied to all companies," saying sectoral-wide agreements could be reached for parts of the economy that wanted to opt out.

Unions hit back immediately, with the leader of the FO union, Jean-Claude Mailly, describing the proposals as "unacceptable.

In a bid to pep up the eurozone's second-largest economy, Hollande has proposed a "Responsibility Pact" between government and business.

The proposal, also unpopular with the political left, would see business winning 40 billion euros ($52 billion) in tax breaks in return for a pledge to create jobs over three years.

With France's public deficit ballooning, Hollande plans to finance this with €50 billion in public spending cuts. 

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