French unemployment hits record

AAP

Unemployment in France hit a new record high in September, with the number of people officially registered as looking for work rising 60,000 to 3.29 million, the labour ministry said on Thursday.

French President Francois Hollande has pledged to reverse the trend of rising unemployment in France by the end of the year and while the government maintains this will still happen, critics are increasingly doubtful.

Last month's increase in job seekers is artificially high due to a glitch that saw the jobless rate in August drop dramatically, before being revised.

The ministry had initially announced that the number of registered job seekers in August dropped by 50,000 to 3.23 million -- the first fall in more than two years.

But it later revised the figure and said the number of job seekers actually only fell between 22,000 and 29,000.

The mistake was blamed on a malfunction with mobile phone operator SFR that meant some job seekers did not renew their registration because they did not receive reminders managed by the operator.

Stripping out the glitch, the number of job seekers went up by 10,000 from July to September, which the government said indicated that the upward trend in unemployment was slowing.

In its statement, the labour ministry pointed to an improvement in youth unemployment, saying the number of young job seekers had increased an average of 1.1 per cent a month from January to April, but subsequently dropped 0.5 per cent a month.

Overall, the total number of people looking for a job or just for additional hours of employment rose to 4.84 million in September.

"More than ever, the aim is to reverse the unemployment trend by the end of the year and in a lasting way," the ministry said, a target that Labour Minister Michel Sapin earlier said would be reached.

But Thierry Lepaon, head of the CGT union, said the government was "far from having won its bet."

"The government makes a lot of announcements on the issue, but does not put anything of substance in place," he said in an interview with the Les Echos daily due out on Friday.

And junior economy minister Benoit Hamon pointed out that if there was no reversal, "the credibility of this government will be completely dented."

The issue is therefore of crucial importance for Hollande, whose approval ratings have slipped to record lows amid public divisions within his Socialist government over the handling of Roma migrants, a bad economy and perceived insecurity.