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Unemployment in France, Europe’s second-largest economy, continued to rise to record levels last month with joblessness hitting a 16-year high. New data by the French labour ministry shows that the number of people out of work rose for the 22nd month in a row in February.
The number of people out of work actively seeking employment increased by 18,400 over the month to 3.18 million. This represents a month-on-month increase of +0.06% while over the course of a year, unemployment rose by nearly +11%. The ministry said that workers aged over 50 were in particular hit by the increase in unemployment.
France has been struggling with a fall in private investment and major job cuts across the auto and manufacturing industries. Rising unemployment has been a major challenge for socialist president Francois Hollande whose popularity has suffered in recent months. He has vowed to cut the current jobless rate of over 10% to a single-digit figure by the end of the year.
The increase in unemployment mirrors weak economic growth in the country. France posted zero growth in 2012, after GDP rose +1.7% in 2011, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies. Forecasters predict the economy to grow slightly in the second quarter of 2013, while remaining flat in the first three months of the year.