French jobless rate steady in third quarter at 9.1 percent despite employment gains

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s jobless rate held steady in the third quarter despite recent job creation that has pushed the employment rate to its highest in decades, official data showed on Tuesday.

France's unemployment rate stood at 9.1 percent in the July-September period, unchanged from three months earlier, said the INSEE statistics agency. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast on average a rate of 9.2 percent. FRUNR=ECI

INSEE forecast last month that the unemployment rate would fall to 8.9 percent by the end of this year as the economy picked up in the second half.

While President Emmanuel Macron’s labour reforms last year have so far not yielded a big impact on unemployment, economists say that they are gradually boosting employment.

In his first major policy move of his pro-business reform agenda, Macron eased labour laws to make it easier to hire and fire workers, something long sought by many French employers.

Although job growth has slowed this year in line with the broader economy, thousands of new jobs are still being created, pushing the employment rate to 65.9 percent which is the highest since the early 1980s, INSEE said.

Employment gains were particularly strong among youths, who have long suffered from high joblessness in France. Furthermore a growing number of jobs were on long-term labour contracts, marking a sign of employers’ confidence.

In addition to the labour reform, Macron’s government is overhauling professional training and it has plans to shake up the unemployment insurance package next year.

Macron won election in May 2017 on promises to modernise France’s economy, yet he is increasingly running into resistance as voters become impatient to see the fruits of his reforms.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the government would nonetheless push ahead and ruled out making any concessions to a grassroots protest movement that has blocked roads in recent days over high petrol taxes.

Excluding French overseas territories where joblessness tends to be higher, the unemployment rate in mainland France stood at 8.8 percent in the third quarter, also unchanged from the second quarter.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta