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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La France repasse la barre des 10 % de chômeurs

by Olivier Mayer

10% Plus Unemployment in France Again

Translated Thursday 1 April 2010, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Gene Zbikowski

The French statistical bureau has published the figures for unemployment in the last quarter of 2009 – up 0.5% in three months, and a 1.8% rise for the year. The accelerating increase puts French unemployment at a level last seen in 1999.

It’s a Great Leap Backwards of ten years! The French statistical bureau (INSEE) yesterday (March 4, 2010) published the figures for unemployment in the last quarter of 2009. The unemployment rate as defined by the UN’s International Labor Organization (ILO) comes to 10% of the active population in France, the overseas départements included. This is a clear acceleration. The statisticians did not expect the 10% level to be reached before June 2010.

According to the ILO definition, an unemployed person is a person of working age (15 or older) who fits three conditions simultaneously: to be without a job, that is to say, not to have worked even a single hour in the week being considered, to be available to take a job within two weeks, and to have been actively looking for work during the preceding month. In France, 2.7 million people fit this description today, a 0.5 percent increase compared to the previous quarter and a 1.8% increase over the year. This level has not been seen since 1999. In a more general way, in mainland France 3.4 million people are not working at all but want to work.

“I believe that 2010 will be the year things turn around,” Christine Lagarde had declared on Sunday. “Jobs will be destroyed all through a part of 2010,” she pointed out, adding that we “should pull out of this situation in the course of 2010.” The Economy Minister, who had not seen the economic crisis coming, keeps on seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, just like French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who promised late in January on his TF1 television broadcast that unemployment would fall in the days and months to come. Alas, far from falling, unemployment shot up right from January 2010 (an additional 19,500 job-seekers).

Yesterday, Christine Lagarde and the junior minister for employment, Laurent Wauquiez, contented themselves with “taking note” of the rising figures announced by the INSEE. They tried to be reassuring by pointing out that “the quarterly increase in unemployment was, on average, one-third as strong as at the beginning of 2009.” This is a derisory consolation because the newly-unemployed are added to the list of already-unemployed, and the list of job-seekers whose benefits have run out is growing. “On the social front, the hardest part is still ahead of us,” is what most economists basically say.

25% among the under-25s!

In the last quarter of 2009, the rise in unemployment affected men especially with a 0.8% rise in one quarter, and 2.2% over the year. Female unemployment remained stable in the fourth quarter and increased by 1.2% over the year. The INSEE also observed a “completely new phenomenon” – unemployment among young men aged 15 to 24 is higher than among young women. Over 25% of the young men under 25 are unemployed! The rate increased by 3.9% in the course of 2009.

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