For purely statistical reasons, the unemployment rate fell in the first quarter. Fears of an explosion in the number of unemployed in the coming weeks are growing. The OFCE expects France to have 600,000 more unemployed by the end of June.

The unemployment rate in France fell by 0.3 point in the first quarter to 7.8%, a

It is a paradoxical decline. In the first quarter, the number of unemployed fell in France by 94,000 people, reducing the unemployment rate to 7.8% of the working population, Insee announced on Thursday. The confinement and its damage to the labor market had already started for two weeks at the end of March. An apparent contradiction that can be explained quite simply.

The definition of unemployment is an international convention. Unemployed is anyone who has not worked during the previous weeks, is actively looking for a job and is available to take a new job within two weeks. During a period of confinement, few people take any steps to find a job and many may have problems taking a new job. The unemployment rate therefore has little meaning.

The one who has more is that of the number of French people in a situation of underemployment, which jumped to 8% of people in employment in the first quarter, or 800,000 more French. It is partial unemployment which explains this increase and plays its role of shock absorber of the crisis for the employees.

The importance of partial unemployment

This instrument, pillar of government policy during this crisis, the president of Medef, Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, would like it to be extended until the summer. This mechanism adopted to avoid layoffs and an explosion in the unemployment rate, which potentially covers more than 12 million employees in the private sector (even if the effective recourse rate is lower), is in force until May 31 and must then change. gradually, with probably a drop in the rate of coverage by the State.

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“The stopping or at least the partial delisting of partial unemployment on June 1, that comes too early”, according to Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux. François Asselin, head of the Confederation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (CPME) is on the same wavelength, indicating that he “Do not let go of the support measures right away”. Without partial activity measurement, unemployment in the United States is increasing today by 3 million people per week and even double at the start of the crisis.

And, even with this device, unemployment is set to increase in France. The French Economic Observatory (OFCE) expects 600,000 more unemployed by the end of June. “We will be at an unemployment rate of around 10% in June and perhaps over 12% at the end of the year”, predicts Eric Heyer, an economist at OFCE, who insists, however, on health uncertainties.

But, for him, “We can still ask ourselves whether the ceiling should not be lowered up to which the compensation is valid. We could reduce it to 2 minimum wage against 4.5 times today “, estimates the economist.

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Continue to support the economy

For others, like Olivier Passet, economist at Xerfi, “The risk is not to do too much but not enough”. “There are abuses and windfall effects, but that’s not a big deal because the potential cost of not taking action is much higher”, he believes. Moreover, France has still not regained its level of unemployment before the 2008 crisis.

According to this economist, “Make no mistake, the potential of this crisis is to destroy enough jobs for the unemployment rate to reach 30%. So in the short term, we must continue to support the economy. We must not deny the problem of public finances, but it is too early to tackle it ”. What to avoid is depression because its cost is sure to be astronomical.

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