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Has France really seen a record fall in unemployment?

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Has France really seen a record fall in unemployment?
Photo: AFP
09:11 CEST+02:00
France's beleaguered Socialist government were celebrating the biggest drop in the jobless rate since the year 2000, but is it really reason to rejoice?

The figures, which took most people by surprise in France, revealed that the month of March saw the number of unemployed drop in France by a huge 60,000.

To put it in context that's the biggest recorded drop for 16 years.

The government were quick to celebrate the figures released by the Ministry of Labour.

“This is good news for France,” said spokesperson Stephane Le Foll, a key ally of President François Hollande, whose chances of re-election hinge on whether there is a major drop in unemployment before next year's elections.

Le Foll said the government would continue to do more in the coming months to get unemployment down and boost Hollande's chances at the polls.

But most economic experts in France and indeed Hollande's enemies on the right, as you would expect, say it's far too early to start popping any champagne corks.

Many point out that the figures are unreliable from month to month and it's far better to look at the jobless rate over a whole year.

“A fall of this size is encouraging but needs to be confirmed,” economist Bruno Ducoudré told L'Obs website.

The figures also only applied to category A of France's “chomeurs”, which is essentially those actively seeking full time work.

The number of jobseekers in other categories, such as those who have a few hours of paid work but seek more, or those not actively seeking work, perhaps because they are in training or sick, actually rose.

But most economists accept that Hollande's economic policies combined with a slight improvement in the economic outlook for the country has had an effect, albeit menial, on unemployment.

Policies such as cutting payroll charges for employers and offering bonuses to companies who hire new staff on permanent contracts or temporary contracts of at least six months, is helping people into jobs, experts say.

But the president and the country still face an uphill task.

“Even if unemployment falls in 2016, it will take several years of growth and falling unemployment to erase the scars of the economic crisis and give people the impression that the situation has really improved,” said Ducoudré.

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