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Unemployment in France tops 3 million despite positive signs

REUTERS/Charles Platiau

The number of jobless in France has exceeded 3 million for the first time, according to figures for the second quarter released on Thursday.


The actual unemployment rate rose by only 0.1 percentage point to 10.5 percent, suggesting that the steady rise in unemployment might be slowing.

The unemployment rate for young people is down compared to the previous quarter, though it remains high at 24.6 per cent as revealed by the figures from the national statistics agency, INSEE.

France’s employment minister Michel Sapin said that he was pleased to see evidence that the upward trend in unemployment was slowing.

In the first quarter, the rate had risen sharply by 0.3 percentage points.

The high level of young people without work is a particular concern for the left-wing government which is is trying to focus on boosting competitiveness and reducing unemployment.

The unemployment trend also has a direct impact on the outlook for growth since the extent to which people are concerned about jobs has a big effect on household spending, a vital driver of economic activity in France.

President Francois Hollande promised in July to reverse the rising trend of unemployment by the end of the year, saying that economic recovery was imminent. His chances of succeeding were regarded as very slim by most economists at the time.

Since then, France has emerged from recession in the second quarter of the year and some indicators suggest that activity is picking up.

However, economists warn that the second-quarter rise of activity was driven mainly by bad weather and spending on energy.

Labour Minister Michel Sapin said today that the state of the labour market was "improving" and that the government's policies for the economy and employment were working.

The figure concerned only unemployment in mainland France. When overseas territories are included, the unemployment rate rises by 0.1 percentage points to 10.9 percent.

The total number of unemployed on the mainland rose above 3.0 million, and by 0.7 percentage points over 12 months on the basis of a calculation using
International Labour Organization standards.

The INSEE data for the mainland showed that unemployment among people aged 15-24, which had reached a record rate of 25.5 percent at the end of 2012, fell by 0.6 points in the first quarter and by 0.3 points in the second quarter to 24.6 percent.


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