France's unemployment rate declined more than expected in the fourth quarter of 2007 - falling to 7.8% - as measured by the labour force survey methodology, sustaining in the process consumer spending to some extent as economic growth slows.
The jobless rate dropped from a revised 8.2 percent in the previous quarter, Insee said today in Paris. Excluding France's overseas territories, the rate fell to a 24-year low of 7.5 percent from a revised 7.8 percent, based on International Labor Organization standards.
The French rate of economic growth fell in the fourth quarter and the International Monetary Fund cut its growth forecast to 1.5 percent this year from 1.9 percent in 2007. President Nicolas Sarkozy is counting on increased hiring to boost his popularity in municipal elections which are due this month.
Sarkozy's popularity has tumbled to the lowest since he took office in May as rising prices hammered consumer confidence. His approval ratings fell 4 percentage points to 38 percent this month, compared with 65 percent in July, a CSA/Le Parisien/i-Tele opinion poll showed today.
Among the population aged 15-64, 64.8 percent had a job in the fourth quarter, up from 64.4 percent in the third and 63.8 percent a year earlier, today's report showed. The previous quarter's overall rate was revised down from 8.3 percent and the mainland rate from 7.9 percent.