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French jobless total in sharpest drop since 2000 in March

[PARIS] French jobless claims plunged by 60,000 in March in the sharpest drop since the dot.com economic boom of 2000 in a rare boost to President Francois Hollande as he struggles to convince voters the economy is recovering.

The Labour Ministry said that the number of people registered as out of work in mainland France stood at 3,531,000 in March, down 1.7 per cent over one month, but up 0.5 per cent over one year.

The monthly decrease, the biggest since September 2000, more than reversed a spike in the jobless total the previous month to a new record high amid recent volatility in monthly figures that the government says is typical when a recovery takes root.

Though the headline number marked a sharp improvement, the Labour Ministry's figures showed much of the decline stemmed from people dropping out of the jobless toll because they had not updated their job-seeking status.

The monthly report on joblessness, which does not include an unemployment rate, also showed that the number of partially unemployed people rose to a new high while the average time jobless people spent unemployed reached a new record of 580 days.

Mr Hollande's popularity has plumbed new lows for a modern French president as he failed to live up to a promise to get unemployment falling.

He has said he would not run for re-election in a presidential vote a year away unless France makes headway against unemployment.

Mr Hollande said on prime-time television this month that his policies were beginning to bear fruit and gave himself until the end of the year to decide whether to seek re-election.

REUTERS