French unemployment slows in March

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The unemployment numbers are slightly lower in March than they were in previous months.

PARIS – France's jobless total went up by 63,400 people in March, a smaller increase than in January and February, government statistics released on Monday showed.

The latest data brought the total number of unemployed to 2.44 million, with 243,400 losing their jobs since January as the economic crisis forces factories and businesses to close.

The figure for March was lower than in February when France registered 79,900 new job seekers and in January when 90,200 people joined the ranks of the jobless.

Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said at the weekend that the latest jobless figures were "not catastrophic" but "not good news either."

"We have to expect bad figures for some time," she said, adding that even if the economy recovers, it will take a while for the positive effects to be felt in the job market.

The French government expects the economy to shrink by 2.5 percent this year but is banking on a turnaround in 2010.

Independent economists expect French unemployment to cross the threshold of 10 percent at the beginning of 2010, up from its current rate of just over 8.2 percent.

French youth are the hardest hit, with unemployment among the under-25 age group hitting 21.2 percent at the end of last year.

Employment Minister Laurent Wauquiez said France was showing more resilience than its European neighbours, especially Spain which is on track to hit 20 percent unemployment next year.

AFP / Expatica

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