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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le chômage à près de 10 %

by Cécile Rousseau

Unemployment at Nearly 10%

Translated Thursday 10 March 2011, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Gene Zbikowski

Despite all that the optimistic ministers say, France is not pulling out of mass unemployment. For the state statistical bureau, the INSEE, the unemployment rate (including the overseas départements) stands at 9.6%

This time round, Xavier Bertrand, the Minister of Labor, is playing it humble. No triumphalism about the INSEE’s unemployment figures, calculated according to International Labor Organization criteria, although they indicate a 0.1% fall in the unemployment rate compared with the previous quarter and a 0.3% fall compared to the last quarter of 2009. This is because government’s continual talk about companies hiring again has come up against reality: France’s unemployment rate remains high at 9.3% of the active population in European France in the fourth quarter of 2010, and 9.6% when the overseas départements are included.

Although the Minister of Labor considers these figures to be “encouraging,” he remained prudent about the future: “This downward movement now needs to be confirmed for 2011 to mark a fall in unemployment.” As deciphered by Mathieu Plane, an economist at the French Observatory on the Economic Situation (OFCE), “the fall in unemployment is a phony piece of good news. It does not coincide with job creation or a rise in the rate of activity. Instead, it corresponds to people who were previously considered to be jobless and who have now left the job market, notably young people and women.”

Similarly, the figures based on the ILO definition indicate a fall in unemployment, whereas Pôle emploi (the French unemployment office) shows a rise. The difference is due to different ways of counting noses. The unemployment rate according to the ILO definition includes people who had not worked at all in the previous week and who are available for work in the coming two weeks and who were actively looking for a job the previous month. The monthly figures from the statistical service of the Ministry of Labor, the DARES, are based on statistics concerning the number of people registered with Pôle emploi.

Yesterday, the collective “Other Unemployment Figures,” whose members include associations of the unemployed and trade union members who work for Pôle emploi, the INSEE and the DARES, put forward new criteria to arrive at unemployment figures that better reflect reality. As deciphered by Fabrice Huet, a member of the National Movement of the Jobless and Precarious Workers (MNCP), “We have condemned the official figures since 2007. The INSEE, for example, does not take into account all of the ILO recommendation in making its quarterly study. The INSEE does not include the workers who are under-employed. We decided to reactivate our own method of counting when we saw an increasing number of contracts for short-time work."

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