French Jobless Claims Show Smallest Increase in 20 Months

French jobless claims rose at the slowest pace in 20 months, the first sign the nation’s labor market may be stabilizing.

The number of people actively looking for work rose by 300 in December to 3.133 million, the Labor Ministry said today in an e-mailed statement from Paris. Economists predicted an increase of 25,000, according to the median of five forecasts gathered by Bloomberg News.

With the number of claimants at the highest since 1998, President Francois Hollande has said reducing unemployment is among his top priorities. His government has leaned on large companies to avoid lay-offs, has cut social charges and brokered an agreement with unions on loosening labor rules in a push to improve competitiveness.

“My objective is to make sure that unemployment, which has continuously increased for two years, starts to decline,” Hollande said last month.

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