French unemployment declines to 10%
PARIS: French unemployment fell to 10 percent, the Labor Ministry said on
Friday, a figure just short of the single-digit figure the Socialist-led
government has been hoping to achieve since taking office nearly three years
Labor Minister Martine Aubry, a key member of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's
government, called the latest unemployment figures "exceptional" and said
she was pleased that France could celebrate the May 1st workers' holiday
with "a new and strong drop in joblessness."
In a communique, Aubry said the latest drop benefited all categories of
unemployed, including young people and long-term job seekers.
Aubry noted that unemployment had fallen from 12.6 per cent when the
Socialists took control of the government in June 1997.
According to International Labor Organization standards, the number of
jobless in France dropped by 45,000 to 2.589 million, or 10 per cent in
March, down from 2.634 million, of 10.2 per cent, in February.
She attributed the drop to strong growth, the government's employment policy
and the Labor Ministry's policy of creating both public and private sector
jobs for young people. Aubry also said that France's new 35-hour workweek
law had contributed to the fall in joblessness.
Economists have predicted that unemployment will fall to around 9.5 per cent
by the end of the year. The government claims that the number of jobless
will be below 2 million by 2002, down from just under 2.5 million currently.
Fighting unemployment has been a key goal of Jospin's government, and a
continued steady drop is likely to be a key factor for his own expected bid
for the French presidency in 2002. (AP)
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