The French national statistics bureau, INSEE, published the latest unemployment[1] figures in France on Thursday, February 13, 2020: the unemployment rate stood at 8.1% of the working population in the fourth quarter of 2019, compared with 9.5% at the start of the five-year period (second quarter of 2017). After having experienced a slight increase of 0.1 points in the third quarter, the unemployment rate fell sharply by 0.4 points in the last quarter of 2019, moving from 8.5% to 8.1% of the working population in France (excluding Mayotte). With a year-on-year decline of 165,000 people seeking employment, the unemployment rate reached its lowest level in the last quarter of 2019 since the end of 2008. This rate disproves INSEE's own statistics, which forecast, in a report published in December 2019, that “the unemployment rate will reach 8.2% in mid-2020.” In mainland France, the unemployment rate even dropped below 8%, measuring 7.9%. This good performance brings France a little closer to achieving President Macron’s aim of bringing unemployment down to 7% by 2020. This target has already been met by 24 French departments, where the unemployment rate is equal to or lower than 7%. 

Another encouraging factor is that the number of long-term unemployed fell for the first time in ten years below the symbolic threshold of one million people, down 0.4 points in 2019. What’s more, the situation regarding older workers has improved significantly: the unemployment rate for people over 49 fell to 5.8% (-0.5 points over the quarter), the lowest level since the start of 2012, while the employment rate for people aged 50-64 reached 63.3 % (+1.1 points), increasing continuously since 2010.

This positive quantitative result was reinforced by a more qualitative improvement, with the employment rate in terms of permanent contracts for 15-64-year-olds reaching 49.3% at the end of 2019 (+0.2 points over the quarter), a high matched only once before between 2009 and the end of 2018.

[1] The unemployment rate as measured by the International Labor Office