France

French unemployment nears record levels

Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier

Unemployment in France came even closer to an all-time record on February, hitting 3,187,700, just a few thousand lower than 1997’s 3,195,000. With GDP continuing to fall, analysts predict no improvement this year.

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The jobless figures rose 18,400 in mainland France in February, up 0.6 per cent and 10.8 per cent higher than a year before.

The figure is the highest since February 1997 and the 22nd consecutive month-on-month rise.

The detail makes even grimmer reading:

  • The actual number of people registered as seeking work is 4.7 million in mainland France with another 200,000 in overseas territories, whose economies are mostly in an even worse state;
  • Among over-50s the rise was 0.9 per cent over the month and 16.6 per cent over the year;
  • The number out of work for more than a year has already hit a record at two million;
  • Every month 90,000 unemployed people lose their right to benefit, a situation that led a man to burn himself to death in February and several others to attempt or threaten suicide.

The government is to employ 2,000 more workers in the national employment agency, Pôle Emploi and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault appealed to employers to make use

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of tax breaks and other measures brought in by the government to encourage job creation.

The continuing rise of joblessness increases pressure on President François Hollande, who is breaking records of his own with his slumping popularity in opinion polls.

Hollande, who is due to make a peak viewing-time appearance on television Thursday, responded to the new figures by repeating his pledge to reverse the trend by the end of the year.

The OECD predicts that unemployment will surpass the 1997 record in 2012 but will stabilise as the year draws to the close.

National statistics institute Insee predicts 10.6 per cent unemployment mid-year and on Wednesday reported GDP falling 0.3 per cent in the last quarter of 2012 with living standards falling over the year.

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