Photographer: Christophe Morin/Bloomberg

Le Maire Downplays France’s Best Jobless Figures in Two Decades

  • Finance minister says he’s focussed on longer-term goals
  • Unemployment rate at 8.9% in Q4, best in almost nine years

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire downplayed the significance of the biggest drop in unemployment in at least two decades, saying he wants to see a consistent decline in joblessness.

“What counts is the long-term trend,” Le Maire told reporters on Thursday in an unusual response for a politician to positive labor-market data. “We need to wait two years to see the results that really mean something.”

France’s jobless rate declined to 8.9 percent in the fourth quarter, the statistics office in Paris said Thursday. Not only is that the lowest level since the first quarter of 2009, but the 0.7 percentage-point drop was the biggest in any one quarter since at least 1996, according to Bloomberg data.

President Emmanuel Macron’s government came to power last year just as France’s economy began to show signs of its first real sustainable recovery since Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. But the government’s effort to overhaul France’s labor market and lower taxation are also playing a part by supporting business confidence and investment.

Le Maire said that changes to the system of training and apprenticeships that are now being negotiated should provide a further boost in the months ahead.

“You don’t get results overnight,” Le Maire said. “We need to keep our eyes on the goal.”

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