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Wednesday, 28 February, 2001, 10:46 GMT
French jobless hits 10-year low
French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin
Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has overseen a big fall in unemployment
France's unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level since March 1991.

Figures from the Labour Ministry showed the unemployment rate dropped to 9% in January from 9.2% the month before.

The number of registered job seekers declined by 46,000 to 2.36 million, based on International Labour Organisation counting methods.

Analysts said the data provided more evidence that growth was robust in the eurozone's second biggest economy.

'Excellent numbers'

"These are excellent numbers. It's finally down to the 9% mark and shows that French economic activity is dynamic," Banque Populaires Asset Management economist Philippe Waechter said.

Earlier this month, official statistics had shown French consumer spending rose in January at its fastest rate for 18 months.

Merrill Lynch economist Patrick Mange said the unemployment figures would have a significant impact on consumer confidence and spending both psychologically and because of the wealth created through new jobs.

"We expect consumer confidence and spending to remain strong," he said.

Youth subsidies, shorter week

French unemployment has fallen steadily since June 1997 when the present coalition government took power with unemployment rates at 12.6%.

The new jobs have been created as a result of rising investment and exports as well as youth employment subsidies and the introduction of a shorter 35-hour working week.

Despite this, French unemployment remains at about twice the US level and above the eurozone average of 8.8%.

On Monday, a survey had shown a dip in industrialists' confidence, which economists said reflected concern that exports would be hit by economic slowdown in the United States.

However, economists said the index remained at high levels. They also said they expected US economic slowdown to have only a limited effect on the eurozone, and French, economy.

Eurozone exports to the US account for only about 2.7% of the bloc's nominal gross domestic product and even less in France's case.

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22 Feb 01 | Business
French consumer spending hits high
06 Feb 01 | Business
French consumer confidence hits high
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