The historic drop in French jobseekers was actually due to botched text messages

If you want France to know you’re jobless, best to say so in person.
If you want France to know you’re jobless, best to say so in person.
Image: Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier
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The hits keep coming for France. One of the few bright spots during a week when the government unveiled a brutal budget was an unexpectedly large drop in the number of jobseekers registered at official employment agencies. As originally reported, the unemployment rolls shrank by 50,000 in August, to 3.24 million, the largest monthly drop since 2000.

It turns out that this was too good to be true. In a statement (in French), the labor ministry says that the decline was due to a technical error at mobile phone operator SFR. The automatic text messages SFR sends to the unemployed to remind them to register for benefits failed to deliver, which means that the ministry undercounted the jobless by 22,000 to 29,000 in August. Even so, the actual decline in August unemployment was still the first in more than two years, and the largest drop since 2007.

The European Union’s statistics agency reported unemployment data (pdf) across the region today, using a different method to national authorities. By this measure, France’s August unemployment rate, at 11%, was unchanged from the previous month.