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Unemployment still falling, official figures say

Latest update : 2008-06-06

France's jobless rate has dropped to its lowest level since the early 1980s, according to official figures released on Thursday. Though hailed by President Nicolas Sarkozy, the positive figures are yet to make an impact on gloomy consumer morale.

The French jobless rate fell to 7.2 percent in the first quarter of 2008, its lowest level in 25 years, according to official figures hailed Thursday by President Nicolas Sarkozy as a major achievement.
The rate of unemployed among the working population fell 0.2 percentage points compared to the last quarter of 2007 and 1.2 percentage points over a year, according to the figures from the INSEE statistics institute.
The jobless rate rises to 7.5 percent however if France's overseas departments are taken into account.
Sarkozy hailed the figures as proof his economic policies were bearing fruit -- against charges that his reforms have failed to boost French living standards -- while he acknowledged there was still much work to be done.
"This is an important achievement, it is the best figure in 25 years," Sarkozy told reporters during a trip to western France.
"It proves our strategy is the right one but we must absolutely not stop at this. We need to continue until we have full employment. Seven-point-two is too much. I know how far we still have to go."
French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde hailed what she called an "historically low" figure, saying she was confident the government would meet its target of five percent unemployment by 2012.
High unemployment has been a central issue in France for more than a decade but the jobless rate has been falling steadily since 2006, now bringing France close to the European Union average of 7.1 percent.
The upturn in the job market has failed to lift French morale however, with consumers at their gloomiest in 20 years according to surveys amid deepening concerns over the rising cost of living.
Elected last year on a pledge to shake up the French economy, Sarkozy's popularity has collapsed among voters who accuse him of failing to boost their living standards.

Date created : 2008-06-05