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French leaders welcome fall in unemployment

media A French employment exchange Reuters/Charles Platiau/Files

French President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls both welcomed a drop in unemployment in July, claiming that it showed that the government's economic policies were beginning to bear fruit. Trade unions sounded a note of scepticism, saying that part-time and temporary jobs are on the increase.

The unemployment figures are going "in the right direction", Valls said on Thursday morning, after employment agency figures showed a fall of 0.3 percent to 3.51 million in mainland France.

The figures did not fall in the previous two months but there are 73,900 fewer unemployed than at the beginning of the year, leading Valls to claim that the decline is a trend.

France must continue the "effort to support companies' competitivity", the prime minister told BFMTV and RMC radio.

Hollande, on a visit to a small business that has received government help on Wednesday evening, also hailed a "trend".

"Today in industry a French employee costs, if I can put it that way, less than an employee in Germany, without reducing the worker's salary, which I would not have accepted," said the president, who at one point said he would not stand for reelection if unemployment did not fall during his term in office.

The reduction has been achieved by reductions in businesses' social security contributions, he said.

Unions sceptical

Valls also said that the government is sticking to its forecast of 1.5 percent growth in 2016 and 2017, even though no growth was recorded in the second quarter of 2016.

Trade unions fighting the government's proposed labour reform remained unconvinced of the efficacy of government policy.

"Even if the rise in unemployment has slowed, it has not been wiped out, it is creating precarity, above all," the CGT union said in a statement and its ally in the anti-labour reform fight, FO, agreed.

The highest drop in unemployment was among young people, at 0.6 percent for under-25s, compared to 0.6 percent for 25-49-year-olds and 0.3 percent for over-50s.

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