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French unemployment drops sharply in March

Philippe Huguen, AFP | The drop is a rare boost for French President Hollande

France saw in March the steepest drop in the jobless total since economic boom days of 2000 in a rare boost for President Francois Hollande as he struggles to convince voters the economy is recovering a year away from a presidential election.

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The Labour Ministry said that the number of people registered as out of work in mainland France fell by 60,000 to 3,531,000 in March, down 1.7 percent over one month, but still up 0.5 percent over one year.

The monthly decrease, the biggest since September 2000, more than reversed a spike in the jobless total the previous month to a new record high amid recent volatility in monthly figures that the government says is typical when a recovery takes root.

Economist Bruno Ducoudre with the OFCE think-tank said that even though the labour market has been showing signs of recovery, it was not yet enough to boost consumer confidence.

“We’re coming back from a really low level,” he said. “It will take years to get back to levels seen before the crisis and the improvement is not really enough for households to take note.”

The monthly jobless report does not include an unemployment rate, but it remains stuck above 10 percent, according to the last figures published at the end of last year.

Though the ministry’s headline number marked a sharp improvement, the Labour Ministry’s figures showed much of the decline stemmed from people dropping out of the jobless toll because they had not updated their job-seeking status.

The monthly report on joblessness, which does not include an unemployment rate, also showed that the number of partially unemployed people rose to a new high while the average time jobless people spent unemployed reached a new record of 580 days.

Hollande’s popularity has plumbed new lows for a modern French president as he failed to live up to a promise to get unemployment falling.

He has said he would not run for re-election in a presidential vote a year away unless France makes headway against unemployment.

Hollande said on prime-time television this month that his policies were beginning to bear fruit and gave himself until the end of the year to decide whether to seek re-election.

Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri said that hiring by small and mid-sized firms was surging as they signed up to receive recently announced government payouts for taking on workers.

But the Medef employers associations urged her in a statement to stop diluting a labour market reform bill under pressure from unions and students who have held a series protests against it.

Parliament is due to begin considering the bill on May 3.

(REUTERS)

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