The protesters "have mixed legitimate demands with unacceptable violence", Macron said at the start of his televised address, recorded earlier in the evening.
With over 4,000 people having been arrested since the protests started on 17 November, Macron condemned the vandalism and attacks on the police during the protests.
"It was first of all anger about a tax," Macron commented, adding that it has become a more general expression of discontent.
The government has already scrapped the rise in the green tax on fuel planned for the beginning of the year.
"Perhaps I gave you the impression that it was not my problem that I had other things to do," he conceded but insisted that his "first concern" was the French people.
He said he was declaring an "economic and social state of emergency".
"We want a France that can live reasonably from its work," he said.
Minimum wage raised
Contradiciting his own labour minister, Muriel Pénicaud, who ruled out a rise in the minimum wage, Macron declared that it would go up 100 euros a month, six percent, from the beginning of 2019 but would not be paid by employers.
But Macron did ask "every employer who can to award a end-of-year bonus", promising that it would not be taxed.
The president announced that the rise in the CSG indirect tax would be cancelled for pensioners receiving less than 2,000 euros a month.
Income from overtime working would also not be taxed, he announced.
But there would be no reversal of one of his most controversial measures, the cut in wealth tax, Macron said, claiming it is creating jobs.
But he did promise to do more to fight tax evasion.
Macron insisited on the need to face up to climate change and said that the electoral system should be made fairer.
There will be an "unprecedented debate" on how the country is run, the president promised, telling the French people "You will have your share" in it.