Unemployment in France fell to a 10-year low as the eurozone’s second-largest economy seeks to reform its labour market and bring the rate more in line with neighbouring Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.
Quarterly joblessness dropped 0.1 percentage points to 8.7 per cent of the labour force in metropolitan France and its overseas areas, or departments, France’s statistical office said on Thursday, the lowest since 2009. That figure is still more than double the rate in Germany, the UK and the Netherlands. Analysts’ consensus was for 8.7 per cent in France, according to FactSet.
French unemployment has fallen from 9.7 per cent at the start of Emmanuel Macron’s presidential term in 2017, but remains higher than Germany’s 3.2 per cent and the UK’s 3.8 per cent. The eurozone rate was at 7.7 per cent in March, according to the latest figures from Eurostat, while in the EU it is 6.4 per cent, the lowest since these records began in January 2000.
The number of unemployed in metropolitan France in the first quarter fell 0.1 per cent from the previous three months to 2.4m, or 8.4 per cent of the working population, Insee said. Among young women it dropped 1.4 points while for young men it was up 2.1 points.
Compared with the first quarter of 2018, the rate in metropolitan France declined 0.5 points, with young women out of work dropping 3.9 points and young men falling 1.7 points.
Among the jobless, 963,000 had been seeking a job for at least a year. The long-term unemployment rate was 3.3 per cent of the workforce in the three months to March, little changed over the quarter and down 0.3 points over a year.
President Macron has put the French labour market at the centre of his reform plans while months of weekend protests have applied pressure on him to deliver tangible improvement to living standards.
The gilets jaunes demonstrations began last year as a motorists’ protest against green taxes on fuel and developed into a broad anti-Macron, anti-establishment uprising, marked by weekly marches through French cities.
Mr Macron announced €10bn of concessions to the protesters in December, with half of the money directed at boosting labour reforms, accelerating and reinforcing incentives for the low-paid to stay in work rather than receive unemployment benefit — for example, by eliminating tax and social security charges for overtime hours.
As part of France’s attempts to reduce the burdensome level of unemployment, a five-year, €15bn scheme aims to finance the training of the long-term and young unemployed.