FRANCE

French unemployment dips slightly in August

Philippe Huguen, AFP | An unemployment office in France

Unemployment in crisis-hit France dipped fractionally in August, official statistics published Wednesday showed, in a rare boost for the deeply unpopular President François Hollande.

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The labour ministry said there were now 3.41 million people claiming jobless benefits in France, a dip of 11,100 or 0.3 percent compared to the previous month – the first drop in 2014.

"I take note of this drop, but I consider, as I have said several times, that monthly figures should only be interpreted over the long term," said Labour Minister François Rebsamen in a statement.

The data followed nine consecutive months of rising unemployment, as France battles a crisis in its economy that has posted no growth in the first two quarters of the year.

Even France's own Economy Minister, Emmanuel Macron, has admitted that the economy is "sick".

The government's plan to cure the patient is the much-vaunted but controversial "Responsibility Pact", which will cut social charges for businesses by 40 billion euros ($52 billion) in exchange for them creating 500,000 jobs by 2017.

Given the parlous state of France's budget deficit, which is expected to remain above European Union limits until 2017, Hollande plans to finance the tax breaks with 50 billion euros in public spending cuts.

This has proved very unpopular on the left flank of Hollande's ruling Socialist Party, which sees it as a gift to business.

(AFP)

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