French jobless total hits 13-year high

PARIS Mon Aug 27, 2012 1:46pm EDT

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PARIS (Reuters) - The number of people out of work in France rose for the 15th month in a row in July to reach its highest level in more than 13 years, in the latest grim news for France's stagnating economy.

Labor ministry data released on Monday showed that the number of registered jobseekers in mainland France rose by 41,300 last month to 2.987 million, in the biggest monthly increase since the 2008-09 financial crisis.

The total jobless figure - which does not account for a threatened wave of upcoming layoffs at companies like Peugeot (PEUP.PA) and Carrefour (CARR.PA) - was the highest since June 1999, marking an increase of 1.4 percent over one month and 8.5 percent over one year.

President Francois Hollande has seen his ratings slide since he came to power in May as he battles to live up to campaign promises to bring down stubbornly high unemployment amid a rash of job cuts in recent weeks.

The labor ministry said in a statement that the deterioration only toughened the government's resolve to push through measures to encourage hiring.

The government will present a bill on Wednesday for 150,000 state-sponsored jobs, which it aims to debate in parliament in September so the law can take effect in January.

With a growing number of companies announcing layoff plans, the government is also scrambling to limit damage on a case-by-case basis. Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg said in a newspaper interview on Sunday that he would look into union reports that Carrefour was planning hundreds of cuts.

However, the government has so far found few solutions to keep companies from axing jobs even after Peugeot's announcement last month that it would cut 8,000 posts in France by 2014 sounded alarms in the corridors of power.

In another sign of labor market weakness, the data showed that the number of job offers received by the state employment agency from employers had fallen 7.7 percent in July from June, the biggest drop since January 2009.

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

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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