The latest unemployment figures for France reveal that in December the number of jobless rose for the 20th consecutive month, to reach a total of 3,132,900, bringing the number of people made unemployed during 2012 to 284,600.
The figures, released by the national employment agency, Pôle-Emploi, on January 25th, show that despite the inexorable rise in unemployment, December’s was the lowest increase in any month last year at an almost negligible 0.1%. The number of jobless who had not worked for the whole month, known as Category A, grew by 3,700, including people in France’s overseas territories, taking the rise for the full year to 10 %, or 270,000 more people seeking work than a year earlier.
Curiously, there was also a surprisingly high level of people being struck from the jobless register in December. This figure rose by 24.5% month-on-month, with 9,200 more people struck off compared with November.
If people whose working hours had been cut during the month are included (categories B and C as well as A), registered unemployment grew 0.3% in December with 12,600 more people looking for work, but this was lower than in previous months. Taking in all categories, unemployment rose 0.2% in the month with 10,200 more job seekers registered, bringing the overall rise to 8.8% for 2012. Thus by the end of last year, 4.63 million people were registered as looking for work, a figure that rises to 4.92 million if French overseas territories are included.
The government dwelt on December’s near-stable figure but noted the trend remained upward. "The stability in December is noticeable. Nevertheless, it does not mark a reversal of the rising trend observed since 2008 which has been particularly marked for a year and a half," the labour and employment ministry said in a statement.
However, the number of people out of work in France is expected to keep on growing this year and could even set new records. Unedic, the agency that monitors unemployment and sets levels of state pay-outs to the jobless, forecasts that the Category A unemployed will grow by 185,500 in 2013 compared with 294,500 in 2012. And Pôle Emploi, which responsible for paying unemployment benefits and overseeing job-hunting, plans a major upwards statistical correction which will be applied to the January jobless figures.
So despite the government's promise to instigate "a war on unemployment", the situation is hardly improving. Redundancies are being announced across the country, and Goodyear Dunlop Tires has just confirmed a report in Le Monde last week that it planned to close its factory in Amiens, northern France, which employs 1,250 people, by the end of 2014. All of which suggests that France, with over half a million people languishing without work for over three months, is on course to return to record jobless levels last seen 15 years ago.
French national statistics institute INSEE’s key economic outlook for the first half of 2013, published in December, predicted that France will remain on the edge of recession with zero growth, ever-rising unemployment, a collapse of purchasing power and consumption in tatters. Despite this, the government continues to target growth of 0.8%.
But the most disturbing forecast in INSEE’s regular outlook was the trend in the unemployment rate. The institute predicted that by next June unemployment may reach 10.9% of the active population, including French overseas territories, just three decimal points short of the highest jobless level ever recorded in recent French history, set in 1997.