French unemployment hits record high

The number of unemployed in France hit a record high in March, reaching 3,224 million, although the percentage has not yet overtaken 1997’s level. The 23rd successive monthly rise is a new blow to the Socialist government’s hope of turning the economy round.

Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier

Unemployment soared 36,900 in March, according to official figures, taking the total to 36,000 more than in 1997.

The grim statistics showed:

  • The total number of people looking for full-time work, including those working only part-time, reached 4.74 million;
  • Youth unemployment at 10.9 per cent;
  • Over-50s unemployment at 17 per cent;
  • Long-term unemployed at 1.89 million;
  • Job offers at employment exchanges down 6.0 per cent.

But, although the labour ministry did not publish an unemployment rate for March, it was at 10.2 per cent at the end of 2012, below 1997’s 10.8 per cent since the workforce has grown by 2.7 million.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Male unemployment is now higher than in 1997, at 52 per cent compared to 48 per cent, probably because of the decline in manufacturing jobs.

The government’s job-creation policies have so far failed to take off.

Only 20,000 contracts in one key scheme have been signed, boding ill for an end-of-year target of 100,000, while statistics institute Insee estimates that new tax breaks have saved about 15,000 jobs in the first quarter of 2013.

President François Hollande, currently chasing contracts for French industry in China, called on all his ministers to “engage in the battle for jobs”.

Unemployment in Greece and Spain is near 18 per cent and Italy's rate in 11.6 per cent, while Spain now has 6,202,700 jobless.

Germany's official unemployment rate is under 5.0 per cent.

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