PARIS, April 25 (Reuters) - The number of jobless people in France hit an all-time high in March, piling more gloom on cash-strapped households and fresh doubt on the government's pledge to reverse the unemployment trend by year-end.
The number of registered job seekers in mainland France rose by 1.2 percent to 3.225 million, marking a 23rd straight monthly rise and reaching the worst level since records began in January 1996, the labour ministry said on Thursday.
The new 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 have soared.
Battling to make good on his promise to reverse the relentless rise in unemployment by the end of this year, Hollande has launched subsidised youth-job schemes and pushed through a reform to making hiring and firing more flexible.
Yet 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 alltime record of 3,195,500 set in January 1997.
The labour ministry data is the most frequently reported jobs indicator in France, although it is not prepared according to International Labour Organisation standards nor expressed as a percentage of job seekers in the work force.