Computer bug slashes French unemployment figures

A dramatic fall in France's unemployment in August was due to a computer bug, an inquiry by the employment service. More than 22,000 claimants were struck off the register because mobile phone operator SFR failed to send out a reminder to renew their claims.

A French unemployment office
A French unemployment office AFP/D Charlet

Last week ministers were delighted to announce a fall of 50,000 in the number of

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unemployed in France in August, although Labour Minister Michel Sapin was careful to warn that the figure seemed a bit of a freak.

Sapin ordered thePôle emploi employment service to find out "exactly what had happened" and their investigation established that a malfunction at SFR had meant that reminders to long-term unemployed to renew their claims had not been sent, cutting 77,500 people off the records.

Up to 7,000 claimants received their unemployment benefit late, the service said.

Unemployment still fell in August by between 22,000 and 29,000 and Sapin pointed out Monday that "the improvement in the labour market has been confirmed".

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