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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le chômage explose à nouveau

by Clotilde Mathieu

Unemployment Shoots Up Again

Translated Thursday 31 October 2013, by Gene Zbikowski

In September, the number of unemployed who did no work at all rose by 60,000. In all, 4,843,000 workers are registered at Pôle emploi, a 7.3% increase over the previous year.

The deadline is getting closer. Just two months to go. The famous reversal of the unemployment curve still has not been realized. And when the unemployment figures are exaggeratedly better, as in August, it is due to a computer bug at the telephone operator SFR, which was supposed to send a text message to update registrations.

Since Oct. 23, minister for labor Michel Sapin has been preparing the ground. “The figures will not be good,” he announced. This time, following the slowing down in the rise, to get people to believe that the trend has been reversed, the minister for labor is embroiling himself in statistics: “If you want to look at the trends, you have to take two figures (the figures for August and September – editor’s note), combine them, and we will see what the average of the two is.”

It remains that when you make this calculation, the number of people registered at Pôle emploi in the “A” category, has increased by 10,000 (up 0.3%). Just for the month of September, the number of unemployed who have done no work has jumped by 60,000. The unemployment rate has hit a new record with 3.29 million jobless, according to the figures published on Oct. 24 by the labor ministry.

Only Michel Sapin can see in these figures “a trend toward improvement that has been observed for several months.” The economists at the Sciences-Po economics laboratory believe that the trickle of economic growth will not make it possible “to improve the situation on the labor market.” And some members of the government are beginning to back off from the commitment to reverse the trend. “If, in two months, there has been no reversal of the unemployment curve (…) whereas we have mobilized for that, then this government’s credibility is going to be seriously dented,” said Benoit Hamon, the junior minister for the Social Economy.

There’s no need to wait – excluding the August statistics, France today has chalked up the 24th consecutive month of rising unemployment. This is a sign that François Hollande’s economic policy is not working. By investing all of his forces in the race to become competitive by lowering the “cost of labor” – notably via the employment-competitiveness agreement, or again the 20-billion-euro tax credit – the French president has not re-launched economic activity. Household consumption and business investment have not risen. Worse, in 2014 households will be subject to 12 billion euros in new tax increases, most of which will hit the most fragile individuals, since the main measure is an increase in the value added tax as from January 1st.

The rise in unemployment is linked to the jobs policy

Along the same line, the “aided jobs” [for which the employer receives a tax break – translator’s note], the keystone in the government’s jobs policy, are not working, whether you look at the “generation contracts” or the “jobs for a future.” Today, only 56,000 “jobs for a future” contracts have been signed, whereas the goal is 100,000 signed contracts by the end of the year, and 150,000 by the end of 2014.

With a 15-billion-euro reduction in government expenditures programmed – which amounts to a historic reduction in expenditures – local governments will lose 1.5 billion euros in grants in 2014 and, at best, 1.5 billion euros in 2015.

This vision is shared by Thierry Lepaon, the general secretary of the CGT trade union confederation : “For the moment, the government’s nowhere near having won its wager. To reverse the unemployment curve, it has to conduct a real policy for jobs and for relaunching industry. Between the commitments that’ve been made to workers and the way the country’s being run, there’s a gap that’s blindingly obvious.”

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