PARIS (Reuters) - France’s jobless total registered its biggest increase in thirteen months in April, hitting its highest level since August 1999, in a sign that labor market conditions are fast deteriorating in Europe’s second-largest economy.
Highlighting the challenges facing Socialist President Francois Hollande, official data on Tuesday showed the number of jobseekers in mainland France rose by 33,300 from April to 2.922 million, up 1.2 percent on the month and 8.0 percent from the same period a year earlier.
Figures for April, released last month, showed a more modest rise of 4,300 on the month, while in March the total increased by 16,600.
The 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.
“The figures confirm we’re seeing a very negative trend, that had been masked over the past few months by (...) the fact that a number of corporate layoff plans had been held back,” the Labour Ministry said in a statement.
Unemployment has been rising for thirteen straight months in France, after wavering slightly in the second half of 2010.
The recent wave of increases has been more modest than in the period during and after the 2008 financial crisis, when the jobless rate jumped from 7.7 percent to 9.6 percent in the space of a year.
ILO figures show the jobless rate has been inching up at a modest but steady pace since that time, hitting 10 percent in the first quarter of this year.
The onset of the euro zone crisis, in turn, has led to a worsening of labour market conditions, and French unions warned Hollande last month that some 45,000 jobs risked being lost in the near term as a result of stagnating growth.
Government ministers are due to meet union representatives at a major conference on July 9 and 10, to hammer out plans for boosting unemployment, which poses a major threat to consumer spending, France’s main engine of growth.
Labour Minister Michel Sapin said earlier this month that he was planning to ramp up the cost of laying off workers for companies in the coming months, in a bid to stem a predicted wave of corporate layoffs.
Reporting By Vicky Buffery; editing by Ron Askew