France’s unemployment rate fell to 10.2 percent of the workforce in the final three months of last year according to the latest data from the INSEE statistics office.
It was the first quarterly decline in two years and provides a boost for President Francois Hollande – who was elected on a promise to create jobs which so far has not been fulfilled.
Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici and Labour Minister Michel Sapin said this shows the situation stabilised in 2013 though unemployment remains high. Their statement continued: “The battle does not end here and it will have to be expanded to bring joblessness down in our country.”
The French unemployment rate was however calculated under a new method that substantially modified the statistics.
The third-quarter figure was revised downward to 10.3 percent from 10.9 percent previously.
It is measured according to the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) criteria.
Hollande’s Socialist government, which has invested heavily in subsidised job programmes for younger and older workers, hopes that a plan to slash payroll taxes in exchange for companies increasing their hiring will bring the jobless rate down further.
On Wednesday, employers and trade unions agreed to a blueprint for implementing Hollande’s plan, which aims to cut the cost of labour as part of efforts to restore companies’ waning competitiveness.
The European Commission has said it was eager to see details of Hollande’s payroll tax scheme, lamenting the fact that France had so far made little progress on competitiveness.
Some employers have warned that Hollande’s plan may not start to have an effect on the economy until the end of this year or early 2015.