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Economy in Brief

French Unemployment Little Changed in Short-Run, but Young Workers Suffer Significant Joblessness
by Carol Stone September 30, 2005

As we have noted recently, European economic performance has been basically flat. Today, another piece of evidence in this direction comes from France, which reported its August unemployment rate steady at July's 9.9%. This does continue the reversal of a modest uptick in the rate to 10.2% in March, April and May. So conditions are not worsening, as it might have appeared during the spring. But the foundation appears fairly tenuous ahead of a winter when heating and other energy costs are likely to be burdensome for even the strongest economies.

These data, reported by age group, highlight another feature of the French labor market: the extraordinarily high unemployment rate among younger workers. The overall rate has risen a moderate 1.3 percentage points from a low of 8.6% in the spring of 2001. But that for workers under age 25, now at 23.1%, is up 5.5 percentage points over the same period. Similarly, the total number of unemployed is now 2.712 million, up 17.7% from 2.304 in March 2001, while those under 25 have increased to 625,000 from 452,000, a substantial 38.3% advance. Among the other age groups featured in the French data, for "middle-aged" workers, ages 25-49, unemployment has risen only modestly, with their rate at 9.0%, up from 8.0% at its mid-2001 low and the number unemployed up only about 8% during that period. Older workers have seen a larger percentage increase in their idle numbers, nearly 32%, but their rate is up just 0.9 percentage point from 6.2% to 7.1%. Perhaps more notably, since mid-2003 the rate for this last group is actually down a bit and the mid-range group has seen its rate flat.

Over a longer period, the picture for the youngest group gives greater concern; they have seen their number unemployed ratchet downward from about 1.0 million in 1985 to the 625,000 mentioned earlier, but their unemployment rate is virtually the same at 23%-plus. Thus, by implication, job opportunities for young would-be French workers have diminished markedly.

Unemployment Rates
Seasonally Adjusted
Aug 2005 July 2005 June 2005 Aug 2004 2004 2003 2002
Total 9.9 9.9 10.1 10.0 10.0 9.8 9.1
Age under 25 23.1 23.0 23.3 22.6 22.4 20.7 19.3
Age 25 - 49 9.0 9.0 9.1 9.1 9.1 8.9 8.3
Age 50-plus 7.1 7.1 7.1 7.3 7.3 7.5 6.9
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