Why does the "historic" decline in unemployment seem to be contradicted by Pôle emploi?

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Question asked by Nono on 15/2/2019

Good morning,

We have summarized your question, which was: "The government has announced a historic decline in unemployment, but on the site (the Ministry of Labor, ed), with the table of raw quarterly data, we see the opposite, with for example 5,942 300 unemployed at Q4 2014, 6,322,100 unemployed in the fourth quarter of 2016, 6,375,600 unemployed in the fourth quarter of 2017 and 6,320,300 unemployed in the fourth quarter of 2018. I do not see where the historical decline is announced … Does the government present misleading numbers? "

Many members of the majority have in fact accepted, on Thursday 14 February, a historic decline in unemployment, including the Minister of Labor, Muriel Pénicaud, who, on twitter, observes that the unemployment rate in France fell to its level ten years ago .

On your side, you believe that the figures found on the website of the Ministry of Labor say something else, and that the decline leads us back, at best, at the end of 2016.

A rebel French communiqué, published the following day, also relativizes this historical decline:

The figures you mention (such as those of unsubordinated France) do not in any way illustrate a historic fall in unemployment. And therefore they do not seem to connect with those proposed by Muriel Pénicaud. The explanation is simple: it is not the same indicator. On February 14th the unemployment rate under the International Labor Office (ILO) was made public. It was 8.8% of the workforce in the fourth quarter of 2018 (down 0.3 points), falling for the first time in 10 years, below 9%.

In metropolitan France, INSEE had 2,468,000 unemployed, 90,000 less unemployed than the previous quarter.

The figures you are referring to are of a different order: the inscriptions of people looking for work in Pôle Emploi. And indeed, they are not as bright as those of INSEE.

A preliminary remark, however: do not use raw numbers, as is done, but seasonally adjusted data and working days (CVS-CJO). Nor do we capture all categories, some of which do not include the unemployed as such (persons in training for category D or contracts incurred for category E). The generally preferred indicators are category A (unemployed job seekers) or the aggregate ABC categories (with the unemployed engaged in reduced activities).

In category A, for example, in metropolitan France, an average of 3,418,600 were recorded in the fourth quarter of 2018. A decrease of 38,200 compared to the previous quarter, which brings us back to the third quarter of 2014 (3,423 800 registered). This is a decrease of 160,000 unemployed only compared to the peak at the end of 2015. However, the situation was ten years ago (2 641 500 registered at the end of 2009).

This difference between the figures of Pôle emploi and those of INSEE, illustrated for a long time in this article by Libération in November 2016, is based on the respective methods of each organization.

The ILO INSEE unemployment rate is a quarterly indicator based on a survey of tens of thousands of people. And to do this, the institute has its definition of an unemployed person:

"An unemployed person within the meaning of the International Labor Office (ILO) is a person of working age (ie 15 years or more) who has not worked for even one hour, during the reference week, is available to work within two weeks and has undertaken job search steps active in the previous month (or found a job that starts within three months). "

Pôle emploi, for his part, records job seekers who register on their lists. And for category A, only people who have not worked at all in the month. Another condition: to perform positive work research.

In other words, an unemployed person can be for INSEE but not for Pôle emploi and vice versa. It is however admitted that the most relevant indicator remains that of INSEE.

Luc Peillon

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