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French unemployment falls to pre-crisis levels in fourth-quarter, skewed by lockdown

FILE PHOTO: Martine, a worker, is seen at Plasti-Tremp factory, a family-run business specialized in plastic process, in Menetou-Ratel, France, October 3, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

PARIS (Reuters) - Unemployment in France fell to pre-pandemic levels in the fourth quarter of 2020, though the data was partially skewed by a six-week COVID-19 lockdown during which jobseekers were unable to register as jobless, the INSEE statistics office said.

Unemployment in the euro zone’s second biggest economy fell 1.1 percentage points to 8%, official data showed on Tuesday. That compared with a revised 9.1% in the third quarter and 8.1% in the last three months of 2019.

Unemployment fell fastest amongst 15-24 year olds, and marginally quicker among women than men. The number of workers on a long-term contract edged higher to 49.8% from 49.2% in the previous quarter as some hiring activity resumed, INSEE said.

Before the pandemic struck, President Emmanuel Macron had been chasing a goal of 7% unemployment by the end of his five-year term in 2022. He inherited a jobless rate of 9.5% in May 2017 and set about liberalising the labour market.

The French jobless rate stood above 10% throughout the 2012-2017 term of Macron’s socialist predecessor, Francois Hollande.

Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Matthieu Protard; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Alex Richardson