French unemployment just smashed to a record high

Hollande merkelREUTERS/Sergei KarpukhinGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and French President Francois Hollande attend a meeting with G20 leaders and G20 business leaders in St.Petersburg September 6, 2013.

French unemployment hit an eye-watering 10.4% in the final three months of 2014, according to statistics just released.

That’s the highest in at least 16 years for France – comparable records go back to 1998.

Despite the regular signs of a budding European recovery as the year gets underway, most of the positivity is coming from Germany and Spain, while Italy and France remain comparatively stagnant.

Here’s Dominique Barbet at BNP Paribas in an emailed note, adding some further bad news:

The number of underemployed people is still rising, accounting for 6.5% of the people having a job. This further adds to the pool of available workforce in France. Combining the low participation rate of young people (of which many are discouraged), the rising participation rate of elderly, the record unemployment rate and the rising share of employed people who are looking for more work, we get a picture of the French economy with plenty of idled labour resources.

Here’s a chart from Insee, France’s statistical agency, showing the struggle:

France is still struggling with a labour market that is heavily regulated in comparison to the UK or Germany, and not as much reform progress has been made in Paris as has been made in Madrid. Even if growth does rebound for Europe’s second biggest economy, there are likely to be a lot of jobless people in France for a long time yet.

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