Jobless figures drop in France

UNEMPLOYMENT in France unexpectedly dropped for a second month in November, a sign that prospects for faster growth are encouraging companies to take on additional staff.

The number of jobseekers fell by 7,000 to 2.62m, according to International Labour Organisation calculations, said Insee, the Paris-based national statistics office. That lowered the unemployment rate to 9.6% from 9.7%, the highest in more than three years.

France’s improving labour market mirrors that of Germany, Europe’s largest economy, where unemployment has fallen for three consecutive months. Manufacturers are stepping up production to keep pace with increasing exports to China and the US. The European Commission expects both economies to grow by at least 1.6% next year after stagnating in 2003.

“Gradually things are improving, though it’s a cautious, fragile improvement,’ said Denis Pennel, a spokesman for Manpower Inc, France’s second-largest temporary employment company.

Manpower found in a December survey that more companies are considering

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