French Unemployment Drops in Unexpected Victory for Hollande

France’s unemployment rate fell in the first quarter, handing an unexpected victory to President Francois Hollande, who is trying to revive the nation’s economy.

The unemployment rate dropped to 10.2 percent in the fourth quarter from 10.3 percent, national statistics office Insee said in an e-mailed statement. Economists had expected an increase, according to the median of six forecasts gathered by Bloomberg News.

The first decline in unemployment since Hollande came to power in May 2012 bolsters the Socialist president as he seeks to convince his own lawmakers to back a plan to trim payroll taxes to strengthen French competitiveness. France’s main business lobbies and three unions agreed yesterday to back the president’s plan, labeled “the responsibility pact.”

“The main thing is that unemployment has dropped, even if that drop is slight,” Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said today on I-tele. “This should encourage us to stick to our policies. The French economy is re-starting and we need to support it.”

The last time the unemployment rate slid was in the second quarter of 2011.

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