French unemployment rises to 10.8 percent

PARIS (AP) — French unemployment continued its nearly two-year rise on Thursday, increasing to 10.8 percent in the first quarter, according to an estimate from the national statistics agency.

The Insee agency said that unemployment rose from 10.5 percent at the end of 2012. It had originally reported unemployment was 10.6 percent in the fourth quarter.

French President Francois Hollande has promised to reverse the rise in unemployment by the end of this year, but that is looking increasingly unlikely. Some economists say it won’t peak until at least next year.

According to Eurostat, the European statistics agency, which calculates the figure differently, unemployment is already at 11 percent in France.

Joblessness has been rising in the country since mid-2011, but France has not seen the astronomically high unemployment rates of its neighbors, like Spain. And it has been slower than other European countries to cut spending and reform its labor market and benefits system.

There are concerns that the worst is yet to come for France. Its economy is now officially in recession again, after gross domestic product shrank 0.2 percent in the first quarter.

Insee is the in process of slightly changing its questionnaire and method of data collection, so it cautioned that the figures for the first quarter are preliminary, and it could not give the usual breakdown of unemployment by sex and age.

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