UPDATE 2-French jobless claims hit all-time high in March

Thu Apr 25, 2013 1:33pm EDT

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* More than 3.2 mln jobless, 11.5 pct y/y increase

* Data deals further blow to unpopular government

By Ingrid Melander

PARIS, April 25 (Reuters) - More people were out of job in France in March than at any other time in the past, data on Thursday showed, a bleak record that cast new doubt on government promises to reverse the unemployment trend by year-end.

The new 3.225 million record, an 11.5 percent annual increase, is a symbolic blow to Socialist President Francois Hollande, whose approval ratings have sunk to the lowest of any modern French leader in recent months as jobless claims soared.

It is also likely to add to a growing debate in the euro zone about whether the bloc has gone too far in an austerity drive meant to fight its debt crisis, on a day where Spain also announced record-high unemployment.

Battling to make good on his promise to reverse the rise in unemployment by the end of this year, Hollande has launched subsidised youth-job schemes and pushed through a reform to make hiring and firing slightly easier.

Yet the number of registered job seekers in mainland France rose by 1.2 percent in March, marking a 23rd straight monthly rise and reaching the worst level since records began in January 1996, the labour ministry said.

France's unemployment rate as calculated by International Labour Organisation methodology has risen to 10.6 percent.

With a wave of industrial layoffs taking effect, the March jobless figure of 3,224,600 not only soared further above the 3 million level hit last August but beat the previous all-time record of 3,195,500 set in January 1997.

Hollande on Thursday reaffirmed his goal to reverse the rising trend, calling on his government to combine with industry and other players to use all means possible to create jobs.

"Everything the government does, in every ministry, must be to continue to strengthen the battle for jobs," he told a news conference during a state visit to China. "I want all the French people to unite behind this one national priority."


In a satirical dig at Hollande, steelworkers in eastern France erected a marble tombstone to his election promises on Wednesday as ArcelorMittal permanently shut two blast furnaces many had hoped he could save.

In a bitter irony, the only place to have announced any major hiring plan recently is the national employment agency Pole Emploi, which said last month it would hire 2,000 extra staff by September.

Auto-makers, once major job-providers, have announced thousands of staff cuts, with PSA Peugeot Citroen scrapping more than 10,000 domestic jobs and rival Renault aiming to cut 7,500 posts in France by 2016.

The labour ministry data are the most frequently reported jobs indicator in the country, although they are not prepared according to ILO standards nor expressed as a percentage.

The March data also showed that the average time that jobseekers spend on the jobless roster hit a new multi-year high of 485 days, a level that was last reached in April 2000.

France is not an isolated case in the euro zone, nor is it the worst hit, with Spanish unemployment reaching 6.2 million people in the first quarter. In the bloc as a whole, joblessness has risen steadily throughout most of the financial crisis to reach 12.0 percent this year.

France has been pushing its euro zone partners, in particular EU power house Germany, for months to do more to boost growth and relax budget deficit targets.

"At a time when France seems to be burying itself in recession, there is clearly a need to go further down the path of structural reforms, for the sake of future employment," said ING economist Julien Manceaux.

"However, current figures might increase the government's efforts to stop the European emphasis on austerity."

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Comments (14)
SeniorMoment wrote:
I believe the root of the developed world’s broad unemployment problem is twofold. In the EU is not uncommon for nations to make it very hard to close factories, so current unemployment may be partly a reflection of the Great Recession that was merely delayed. Also the high concentration of wealth among the very rich has come at the expense of everyone else, which has collectively reduced their purchasing power. Government should make it impossible to perpetuate concentrated wealth beyond the generation that earned it. Among other things that would encourage the rich to make bequests of gifts not just to immediate family but to a larger group of relatives and causes.

Apr 25, 2013 2:07pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
ChuckK wrote:
France is the epitome of why socialism fails. It spends 56% of its GDP on social programs. It taxes the rich as ridiculous levels and has even considered raising the top rate to 75% recently. It stills spends more than is receives in revenue and has done so since the early 1970′s. The public has grown accustomed to government handouts and keeps voting in politicians that farcically believe the handouts and spending can continue, as if there are money trees available to fund them.

On top of that, french voters, spoiled by their government, expect handouts to remain the same and keep ignorantly electing more big spending socialists to government positions. These voters decry Austerity, which is really nothing more than “fiscal sanity and a balanced budget”. It’s complete lunacy.

Sadly, the US is going down this same road. Obama and the liberals are determined to build a nanny state, regardless of the number of socialist failures we see all around the world. US voters are behaving very much like those in France. “Don’t take away MY benefits. Take them from someone else” is their battle cry. The cure for this is economic education and not a great deal of it. People need to get it into their thick heads, that no nation can survive by punishing the makers and handing to the takers. That is a path to certain failure.

Unfortunately, I no longer believe the average voter is intelligent enough to understand this fact. As history has shown, few governments survive more than a couple hundred years. Some implode far quicker. The US and France are on the verge of another revolution. I can only hope whatever government that is constructed doesn’t attempt to recreate the failed nanny state all over again.

Apr 25, 2013 2:19pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
branchltd wrote:
Socialism has been a failure every time a country has boughten into it. Still, as long as people are lazy and greedy it will continue to have appeal to them.

Apr 25, 2013 2:32pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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