The trend is confirmed. In 2019, the unemployment rate as defined by the International Labor Office (ILO) fell sharply, from 8.8% to 8.1% of the workforce over one year, to 2.4 million people (-85,000 in the fourth quarter). Timely news for the government. Which has not failed to praise the merits of the reforms initiated at the start of the five-year period to make the labor market more flexible.
But these good figures are explained above all by French growth richer in employment due to a slowdown in productivity gains. At the same time, the gradual retirement of baby boomers mechanically encourage hires to replace at least some of them.
The halo of unemployment at its highest
If it is obviously necessary to rejoice in this positive dynamic, a shadow comes to darken the picture: the halo of unemployment, which further increased significantly (+59,000 people) between the third and fourth quarter of 2019. In total 1.7 million people are classified by INSEE in this category. Or 4% of the population aged 15-64, its highest level since 2003.
Within the meaning of the ILO, the halo of unemployment includes people who wish to work but who are “classified” as inactive, either because they are not available to work within two weeks (long illness, training …), or because they are not actively looking for work, or both. For example, it may be a parent who wants to have a job but, finding no solution to babysit, is forced to forgo it, or people who are discouraged in their job search.
No link to activity
As recalled The gallery, some economists recommend including these people on the border of unemployment in the ILO figures, which would bring the number of French unemployed to 4.1 million. To this could be added precarious workers, knowing that anyone who worked at least one hour in the reference week is not considered unemployed by the International Labor Office.
It is by following this logic that OFCE economists explained in their work The French economy in 2020 that “the lack of employment in the French economy also includes the part-time workers suffered, the discouraged unemployed, the elderly unemployed exempt from job search”.
An anomaly remains. How to explain this increase in the halo of unemployment when job creations continue to increase (+210,000 in 2019)? Difficult to answer this question. One thing is certain, “the halo is not a cyclical indicator: it is not really correlated with activity,” said INSEE. The Statistics Institute nonetheless claims to observe a trend increase in the unemployment halo since 2009 but “with no clear link to the unemployment rate or job creation”.