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PAR 17:10:41 GMT - 03/24/2016  
DJ Number of French Job Seekers Hits Record
By William Horobin

PARIS--The number of registered job seekers in France rebounded in February to reach a record, casting doubt over the strength of the economic recovery.

The closely watched monthly figures showed the number of category A job seekers--defined as those who are fully unemployed--rose 1.1% to 3,591,000 in February from January, the labor ministry said. That marks a new high, above the previous record set in December.

The worsening in the jobs market is a thorn in the side of President François Hollande who has made tackling unemployment his number one priority. If there is no evidence of unemployment falling, Mr. Hollande has said he wouldn't run for re-election in May 2017.

Mr. Hollande's recent attempts to bring down unemployment have made him increasingly unpopular.

A draft labor bill to make it easier to fire and work around complex labor rules sparked nationwide street protests earlier this month. In response, Mr. Hollande toned down the proposals, but that has angered business leaders who say the bill will now do nothing to combat unemployment. Meanwhile, unions and students are still protesting against the changes.

The labor ministry said Thursday the number of unemployed people in France marked a 2.5% increase from February 2015.

The labor ministry also reported a 0.5% month-on-month rise in the number of under 25s registered as category A job seekers. That number is particularly disappointing for the government, which has poured billions of euros into stimulating and sponsoring jobs for young people.

The French government strove to be upbeat about the results.

"These results are part of an up and down trend over the last nine months, which indicates a timid recovery in economic activity," said Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri.

The latest statistics on unemployment raise concerns the French economy may not be performing as well as recent indicators have shown.

The most recently reported unemployment rate, which is measured separately from the jobless number, had shown a decline to 10.3% at the end of 2015 from 10.4% in the third quarter.

Earlier this month, national statistics agency Insee issued a bullish economic outlook for the first half of this year. Economic growth will reach its fastest year-over-year rate for five years by June and unemployment will edge down to 10.2%, Insee said.

Write to William Horobin at [email protected]






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