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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Chiffres du chômage: pas de miracle en novembre

by SG with Clotilde Mathieu

Unemployment Figures – No Miracle in November

Translated Sunday 5 January 2014, by Gene Zbikowski

The number of job-seekers who did no work at all began rising again in November, with 17,800 new job-seekers on the rolls. However the government underlines the fact that, as concerns job-seekers who have been working part-time or under short-time job contracts, the trend is downwards.

For Minister of Labor Michel Sapin, the glass is half full. On Dec. 26, he stated that the reversal of the unemployment curve promised by François Hollande “really and truly began in the fourth quarter.”

If you include job-seekers who have been working part-time or under short-time contracts, the trend is indeed downwards: 6,900 fewer job-seekers on the rolls, a total of 4.87 million job-seekers in continental France, according to the figures published by Pôlé emploi (the French unemployment agency) on Dec. 26. “The month of December will be key in confirming” the reversal of trend, Michel Sapin said.

A morose economic situation.

A different reading of these figures would tend to see the glass half-empty and unlikely to be filled. With 17,800 new job-seekers added to the rolls, the country now has 3.29 million jobless who did no work at all, setting a new record. And the trend outlined at the beginning of the Christmas week by the INSEE (the French statistical bureau) is not optimistic. According to its latest note on the economic situation, a fall in unemployment will come neither at the end of this year, nor before June, 2014. According to the INSEE, the low level of economic activity from now to the middle of 2014 will not make it possible to compensate the arrival of 113,000 workers on the job market. Of course, the job-shedding will stop, since in all “in 2013, the French economy as a whole created 14,000 jobs (after a loss of 58,000 jobs in 2012) and 36,000 jobs will be created in the first half of 2014” the INSEE says in its note on the economic situation. According to the INSEE, this stabilization is essentially due to growth, with the increase in the number of people benefitting from government-subsidized jobs, in non-commercial employment (to wit, in the three branches of the French civil service, in the private health clinics, and in the non-profit associations).

On the other hand, the commercial sector will probably continue destroying jobs, although at a slower pace, with the shedding of 7,000 jobs in all, particularly in industry (a fall of 16,000 jobs in the first half of 2014) and in the building trades (a loss of 8,000 jobs), such that by the end of the period envisaged by the forecast, the unemployment rate will be one-tenth of a percent higher, reaching 11% in late June 2014, with 28,000 more unemployed people.

Weak growth.

This is due to a lack of notable economic activity. Indeed, the INSEE forecasts weak but stable growth in the first six months of 2014, on the order of 0.2% growth. This contrasts with 2013, which oscillated between quarters of negative growth (minus 0.1% in the first and second quarters) and quarters of upturn (up 0.5% and 0.4% in the third and fourth quarters), with 0.2% economic growth for the year as a whole.

For the CGT.

For the CGT trade union confederation, “these figures confirm the INSEE’s pessimistic forecasts, which foresee an 11% unemployment rate in late June 2014. It is in this context, in which more and more workers are out of a job, that Pierre Gattaz [the president of the MEDEF, the association of French bosses] goes so far as to pose, as a pre-condition for the upcoming negotiations on unemployment insurance, that there should be no increase in [employer] contributions…”

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