French unemployment rate falls below 9pc

31st August 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 30, 2006 (AFP) - The French unemployment rate fell to 8.9 percent of the workforce in July, its lowest reading since March 2002, from nine percent in June, the employment ministry reported Wednesday.

PARIS, Aug 30, 2006 (AFP) - The French unemployment rate fell to 8.9 percent of the workforce in July, its lowest reading since March 2002, from nine percent in June, the employment ministry reported Wednesday.

"The trend begun in February 2005 is confirmed and we are starting a virtuous circle," Employment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said, predicting that it was "quite possible to reach a rate of 7.9 percent by the end of 2007."

Economy and Finance Minister Thierry Breton said the latest figures showed that the French economy was growing briskly again.

"It's confirmation of what I have been saying for several months," he said during a meeting with the French employers' federation.

"Growth has returned to our country. Growth creates employment. The great majority of the jobs created are jobs created in the private sector."

But left-wing parties and labor unions were skeptical, arguing that growth remained fragile in France and that the decline in unemployment reflected demographic factors, tighter controls on the unemployed and a surge in small-scale jobs.

The employment ministry said the number of job-seekers in France fell by 26,700 people, or 1.2 percent, in July from June and was down 314,100 or 12.7 percent since February 2005, the ministry said.

It added that the jobless rate, as calculated differently according to International Labor Organization standards, dropped 0.1 points in July from June to 8.9 percent.

Borloo attributed the decline to government policies that "lifted constraints on hiring" and "supported growth."

But he cautioned that such programs "have yet to produce their full effects."

"We are still far from an ideal performance," he said. "The employment battle will be won when workers no longer have the feeling that they are losing their jobs but are changing their jobs, when we have greatly reduced regional inequalities" and when unemployment reaches "a level of eight percent in periods of economic crisis and five percent when times are good."

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a Socialist Party presidential candidate and former finance minister, described the dip in joblessness as "good news" but cautioned that it partly reflected the arrival of fewer young people on the job market.

"It would have been much better to have had job creation. There were only about 50,000 (jobs created) in the second quarter. That's not bad but it's a long way from the 400,000 to 500,000 a year 10 years ago when I was finance minister."

The head of the GGT trade union, Bernard Thibault, insisted that government employement figures are "less and less a reflection of labor force reality, given the precariousness in our society."

François Chérèque of the CFDT union attributed the latest job figures to "a greater than expected number of workers leaving for retirement."

Borloo however insisted that the "decline in unemployment paralleled job creation."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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