French unions have protested about high unemployment
France's unemployment rate has risen to a two-year high as it continues to be hit by the global recession.
The jobless rate totalled 8.7% between January and March, up from a revised 7.6% for the last quarter of 2008, official figures have shown.
Finance Minister Christine Lagarde admitted in a radio interview that the latest figure was "brutal".
France has been hard hit by recession, but Spain's 17.4% jobless rate is much worse. The UK level is currently 7.1%.
Unemployment continues to be most of a problem for young people in France.
The jobless rate for 15 to 24-year-olds stood at 24.2% in the first three months of this year, the latest figures showed.
In April, President Nicolas Sarkozy launched a plan to spend more than 1bn euros ($1.4bn; £867m) to target youth unemployment.
"The figures are terrible," said Alexander Law, chief economist at research firm Xerfi. "Don't get me wrong. But it could have been even worse."
Separate official data released last month showed that the French economy contracted by 1.2% between January to March, following a decline of 1.5% the October to December period.
The French government expects the economy to contract by 3% for 2009 as a whole.
"Unemployment will continue to grow in the coming months, " said economist Joost Beaumont of Fortis Bank.