Hollande dealt major blow as jobless rate shoots up

French unemployment rose sharply in August, reaching its highest level in years and dealing a serious blow to President Francois Hollande ahead of next year's election.

Hollande dealt major blow as jobless rate shoots up
Photo: AFP

The number of unemployed in mainland France grew by over 50,000, or 1.4 percent, to 3.56 million, according to the labour ministry.

The rise was the biggest in a single month since January 2013 and follows on a slight decrease in July. 

Hollande has previously said that he would only seek re-election if he succeeds in lowering the rate of unemployment.

A website in support of Hollande was supposed to have been launched on Monday evening, but was delayed as a result of the disappointing unemployment figures, according to reports. 

The government said the jihadist attacks in Nice and Normandy in July, which led to a significant fall in tourism, were partly to blame.

Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri said the new figures were “sharply less favourable than those for previous months”.

She explained that some sectors had been particularly badly hit by the recent terror attacks.

The economy had been punctured in “areas linked to tourism, notably hotels, restaurants and the leisure industry,” the minister said.

The number of unemployed in all of France, including overseas territories, now stands at 3.81 million, the labour ministry said.

The figures are a further setback for the unpopular Hollande, who has said he will not stand for re-election April if he has not made a “credible” dent in unemployment.

Over the past year the number of unemployed has fallen by only 10,900. In the second quarter the unemployment rate was 9.6 percent.

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy, who is a candidate for next year's presidential election, said the government was following “an economic policy lacking good sense”.

But Mathieu Plane of economic think tank OFCE said the size of the unemployment rise was “worrying” and can't all be explained away by the attacks.

“It is also clear that growth has stalled, after a recovery phase up to the first quarter of 2016,” the analyst said.

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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.