French jobless total highest since Sept 1999

PARIS Thu Apr 26, 2012 12:22pm EDT

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PARIS (Reuters) - The number of jobless people in France rose for the eleventh-month running in March to hit the highest level since September 1999, adding a new dent in President Nicolas Sarkozy's economic record as he battles to get re-elected next month.

The labor ministry data released on Thursday showed the number of registered jobseekers in mainland France rose by 16,600 in March to 2.88 million, up 0.6 percent on the month and 7.2 percent on the year.

The increase was the latest reminder of how weak the labor market remains in the euro zone's second-biggest economy ahead of a May 6 presidential election which polls tip Socialist candidate Francois Hollande to win by a wide margin over Sarkozy.

After four years of economic crisis which have left surging unemployment, record debt and limp growth, Sarkozy is struggling to persuade voters that he is the best candidate to lead the country towards the path of recovery.

The monthly labor ministry data is the most frequently reported domestic jobs indicator for France, although it is not prepared according to widely used International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards nor expressed as an unemployment rate of number of job seekers compared to the total work force.

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas. Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)

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