Very sharp drop in the unemployment rate in 2021

Posted Feb 18 2022 at 7:54 amUpdated Feb 18. 2022 at 10:33

At its lowest since… 2008. As a result of the very good health of the economy since the end of the last confinement, the unemployment rate measured within the meaning of the International Labor Office, the ILO, stood at 7.4% of the population. active on average in the fourth quarter of 2021, according to INSEE. That is a drop of 0.6 points compared to the third quarter, after having stagnated around 8% since the beginning of last year. And even 0.8 points compared to its pre-crisis level at the end of 2019.

This decline, twice as strong as what INSEE anticipated in its mid-December economic note, represents just under 189,000 people to concern a total of 2.24 million.

Head of the labor market summary and conjuncture division, Sylvain Larrieu sees two reasons of comparable magnitude. First, job creations, many driven by the interim, were higher than expected at the end of the year. Secondly, the activity rate has, as expected this time, declined moderately after having increased very sharply in the third quarter, without us being able to see anything more than a simple statistical fluctuation. “The increase in the activity rate remains very significant compared to before the crisis,” he underlines.

Youth unemployment lowest since 1981

Young people have particularly benefited, with an unemployment rate of 15.9% (-3.6 points), “reaching the lowest levels of previous cycles at the end of the 1980s and 1990s”. Precisely, it is necessary to go back to the beginning of 1981, at the time of the election of François Mitterrand, to find such a low point, that is to say forty years behind!

Quite a symbol, when we remember that the former socialist president had estimated that on the unemployment front “we had tried everything”… The unemployment rate also fell by 0.3 points for those aged 25 to 49, to 6.8%, and it remained stable for those aged 50 or over, at 5.8%.

” Excellent news “

Of the unemployed, 0.7 million said they had been out of work and had been looking for one for at least a year. Down 0.2 points compared to the previous quarter, the long-term unemployment rate stood at 2.2% and thus returned to its pre-crisis level.

Another good figure, the employment rate for 15-64 year olds continues to progress: it increased by 0.2 points on average in the fourth quarter, to 67.8%, exceeding its historical high level reached in the previous quarter, still according to INSEE. The situation of 15-24 year olds is particularly notable: at 33.8%, it reached its highest level since 1991.

The Minister of Labor, Elisabeth Borne, obviously did not shy away from her pleasure, welcoming “excellent news”, the fruit, according to her, of the reforms undertaken since the start of the five-year term and the measures taken during the crisis, plan “ 1 young person 1 solution” or partial activity in particular. “When I was appointed in the summer of 2020, no one imagined such a result”, she underlined this Friday morning on France Inter, recalling, to better underline her balance sheet, that the unemployment rate had exploded 30% during the 2008-2009 crisis.

The publication of these figures de facto renders INSEE’s forecast of the unemployment rate for the first part of 2022 obsolete. second quarters, which brought to 7.6% of the active population.

Backlash not ruled out

We will have to wait until mid-March and the next economic report to have updated figures from INSEE. Everything will depend on the performance of the job, itself very much linked to the health situation. Knowing, reminds Sylvain Larrieu, that a backlash is not excluded after a sudden drop.

Be that as it may, at the time of the balance sheet, Emmanuel Macron, who had promised to approach 7%, can highlight the progress made since the unemployment rate was 9.5% when he was elected. Even if the definition of full employment is subject to debate among economists, it will certainly be one of the objectives of the next five-year term.