Unemployment hits highest rate in ten years

The overall rate of French unemployment hit 10 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2009, official figures showed on Thursday. Unemployment is now at its highest level in France since 1999, with more than 2.7 million people out of work.

Within metropolitan France unemployment stood at 9.6 per cent in the final three months of last year, according to national statistics agency Insee.

Including France's overseas terrorities the figure rose to 10 per cent, a high that Insee had not expected to see reached until June 2010.

The figures represent a 1.8 increase in the number of job seekers in metropolitan France since the beginning of 2009.

The rise continues a trend begun in early 2008, when unemployment started to increase rapidly after steady declines in 2006 to 2007.

2009 was the worst year for France's economy since the end of World War II, though growth had shown signs of picking up in the final quarter.

The employment rate should begin to reflect the upturn from the second quarter of 2010, according to French Budget Minister Éric Woerth.

"It takes a long time to reverse these trends," he told France Inter radio on Wednesday.

"We believe that starting in the second quarter of this year, we will begin to see the unemployment rate drop - I hope, touch wood, but I have no crystal ball."

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