Unemployment rate falls amid controversy

27th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 27, 2007 (AFP) - The French unemployment rate fell by 0.1 percentage points in March to 8.3 percent, the French employment ministry said on Thursday amid controversy about the reliability of the data.

PARIS, April 27, 2007 (AFP) - The French unemployment rate fell by 0.1 percentage points in March to 8.3 percent, the French employment ministry said on Thursday amid controversy about the reliability of the data.

The labour report comes at a critical time ahead of the final round of presidential elections on May 6 with the solution to France's stubbornly high unemployment rate a key policy focus for both candidates.

Right-wing candidate Nicholas Sarkozy, a former finance and interior ministry in the incumbent centre-right government, is up against Socialist rival Segolene Royal in the run-off.

About 40 academics and economists had urged the government not to publish the jobless figures on Thursday. They alleged that the figures would be "artificially low" and would amount to "manipulation of public opinion" before the vote a week on Sunday.

An apparent sharp fall in joblessness in France in the last 12 months has been contested by trade unions and the opposition, casting doubt on the independence of INSEE and the reliability of its statistics.

An annual review of INSEE's data was to take place in March -- before the elections -- but was pushed back to later in the year for technical reasons, raising fears of manipulation.

Statisticians at the employment ministry went on strike on Thursday to protest the use of their data, which they described as unreliable estimates.

Announcing the figures despite the pressure, the ministry said that the number of jobseekers in March fell 1.4 percent to 2.036 million, while the unemployment rate according to International Labour Organisation norms fell 0.1 points from the February level to 8.3 percent.

The ministry underlined that the ILO unemployment figure was provisional and could be revised.

Doubts about INSEE intensified last month when the EU statistic agency Eurostat revised up its estimate for French employment in February to 8.8 percent compared to the 8.4 percent given by INSEE.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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