French Unemployment Rate Climbs as Hollande Grapples With Cuts

France’s unemployment rate rose in the first quarter as companies eliminated jobs in the face of faltering economic growth, posing a challenge to newly elected President Francois Hollande.

About 10.0 percent of the population was unemployed, up from 9.8 in the previous three months, according to International Labour Organization standards, national statistics office Insee in Paris said today. Excluding France’s overseas territories, the rate was 9.6 percent, compared with a median forecast of 9.5 percent in a Bloomberg News survey of five economists.

With some of France’s largest companies such as Air France-KLM, PSA Peugeot Citroen and Carrefour SA looking to reduce costs, labor unions are pressing Hollande to make good on a campaign promise to prevent a wave of firings. Bernard Thibault, leader of France’s CGT union, estimated last week that 45,000 French jobs are at risk in the coming months.

“The labor market is still fundamentally very weak,” said Dominique Barbet, an economist at BNP Paribas in Paris.

French jobless claims rose for a 12th month in April, with the number of people actively looking for work rising by 4,300 to 2.89 million, the Labor Ministry said on May 30.