Unemployment in France falls to ten year low

There was some much-needed good news for the French economy on Thursday when the latest unemployment rates were released.

Unemployment in France falls to ten year low
Photo: AFP

France's jobless rate fell to 8.8 percent in the final three months of last year, its lowest level since 2009, the INSEE statistics institute said Thursday.

It was a 0.3 point decline from the previous quarter, and came despite economic disruptions since the “yellow vest” anti-government protests against President Emmanuel Macron erupted last November.

Excluding French overseas territories where unemployment tends to be higher, the jobless rate stood at 8.5 percent for metropolitan France, or 2.47 million unemployed, a drop of 90,000 from the previous quarter.


The unemployment rate dropped just 0.1 percent over the whole of 2018, frustratingly slowly for Macron, who was elected in May 2017 on a pledge to bring unemployment down to seven percent by 2022.

In his first major policy move of his pro-business reform agenda, Macron eased labour laws to make it easier to hire and fire workers, something long sought by many French employers.

The government is also engaged in talks with employers and trade unions to reduce the number of short-term contracts, which have exploded over the past 20 years.

Speaking on France Info radio, Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud welcomed the unemployment drop, saying that “employers, especially small firms, are no longer afraid to hire.”

“We have grown so used to mass unemployment in France that sometimes we just think we should give up. No, we shouldn't give up, we must push forward,” she said.

Penicaud also said she feared that small businesses had suffered due to the yellow vest protests, adding that around 72,000 people have filed for unemployment benefits as businesses temporarily laid off workers.

The weekly protests have often spiralled into violent clashes with police and vandalism of stores, prompting businesses to board up storefronts and customers to stay home.

Meanwhile, youth unemployment — a stubborn problem — appears to be easing, dropping 1.7 points to 18.8 percent compared to the third quarter, INSEE said.

Long-term unemployment was also down 0.3 points at 3.4 percent of the working population, with one million saying they have been looking for jobs for more than a year.

   Unemployment for the over 50s remained stable at 6.1 percent. 

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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.