France’s unemployment back on the way up

President François Hollande was dealt another blow as he weighs up whether to run for re-election as new figures on Thursday showed unemployment in France was creeping back up.

France's unemployment back on the way up
Photo: AFP

France's unemployment rate increased slightly in the third quarter in discouraging news for President Francois Hollande as
he weighs a re-election bid, figures showed Thursday.

Joblessness was up 0.1 percentage points to 9.7 percent in the mainland.

For all of France, including its overseas territories, the third quarter figure stood at 10 percent.

Hollande has staked his presidency on a vow to make a “credible” dent in joblessness.

When the Socialist took office in 2012, unemployment stood at 9.3 percent in mainland France and 9.7 percent overall.

The measure reached a peak in the third quarter last year, at just over 10 percent, then dropped to 9.6 percent in mid-2016, its lowest level since 2012.

Hollande had been buoyed by September's showing, the sharpest drop in unemployment for 20 years.

The national statistics office INSEE said Thursday that unemployment was down 0.4 percentage points compared with the same period last year, adding that there were 2.8 million unemployed in mainland France in the period from July to September.

Hollande, who has the lowest popularity ratings of any post-war French president, has not yet confirmed whether he will stand for re-election next year. He is expected to announce his decision by mid-December.

The unemployment figures are however to be taken with a degree of caution because there is a margin of error of 0.3 percentage points.

Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri said that over a year, there had been “a positive evolution” in the jobless figures.

High youth joblessness

Youth employment dragged down the figures with jobseekers aged between 15 and 24 accounting for most of the increase. Joblessness among this group rose 1.2 percentage points to 25.1 percent, the highest level since 2012.

Figures released by the Pole Emploi job office — which are not internationally recognised, unlike those published by INSEE — showed job seekers have increased by 567,000 to 3.49 million since Hollande took office.

Despite large swings in the figure, it is the one most watched by the public, with the next numbers to be announced on November 24.

Opposition figures and some trade unions accuse the government of trying to lower the numbers artificially, notably with a training programme that got 500,000 people off the rolls.

A recent poll found four in five French people do not think unemployment is being reversed.

September's jobs surge followed a bleak August, when unemployment registered its biggest monthly increase since January 2013.

The government said the jihadist attacks in Nice and the murder of a priest in northern France in July, which led to a significant fall in tourism, were partly to blame for August's jobless increase.

On Wednesday, Hollande's former economy minister Emmanuel Macron announced his own bid to become president, saying he wanted to “unblock” France.

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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.