Paris (AFP) - France's unemployment rate increased slightly in the third quarter, figures showed Thursday in discouraging news for President Francois Hollande as he weighs a re-election bid.
Joblessness was up 0.1 percentage points to 9.7 percent in the mainland. For all of France, including overseas territories, the third-quarter figure stood at 10 percent.
Hollande has staked his presidency on a vow to make a "credible" dent in joblessness.
When the Socialist took office in 2012, unemployment stood at 9.3 percent in mainland France and 9.7 percent overall.
The measure peaked in the third quarter last year, at just over 10 percent, then dropped to 9.6 percent in mid-2016, its lowest level since 2012.
Hollande had been buoyed by September's showing, the sharpest drop in unemployment for 20 years.
The national statistics office INSEE said Thursday that unemployment was down 0.4 percentage points compared with the same period last year, adding that there were 2.8 million unemployed in mainland France in the period from July to September.
Hollande, who has the lowest popularity ratings of any post-war French president, has not yet confirmed whether he will stand for re-election next year. He is expected to announce his decision by mid-December.
The unemployment figures are however to be taken with a degree of caution because there is a margin of error of 0.3 percentage points.
Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri said that over a year, there had been "a positive evolution" in the jobless figures.
- High youth joblessness -
Youth employment dragged down the figures with jobseekers aged between 15 and 24 accounting for most of the increase.
Joblessness among this group rose 1.2 percentage points to 25.1 percent, the highest level since 2012.
Figures released by the Pole Emploi job office -- which are not internationally recognised, unlike those published by INSEE -- showed job seekers have increased by 567,000 to 3.49 million since Hollande took office.
Despite large swings in the figure, it is the one most watched by the public, with the next numbers to be announced on November 24.
Opposition figures and some trade unions accuse the government of trying to lower the numbers artificially, notably with a training programme that got 500,000 people off the rolls.
A recent poll found four in five French people do not think unemployment is being reversed.
September's jobs surge followed a bleak August, when unemployment registered its biggest monthly increase since January 2013.
The government said the jihadist attacks in Nice and the murder of a priest in northern France in July, which led to a significant fall in tourism, were partly to blame for August's jobless increase.
On Wednesday, Hollande's former economy minister Emmanuel Macron announced his own bid to become president, saying he wanted to "unblock" France.
Macron, 38, whose candidacy as an independent is seen as further diluting the left-wing vote, said France "can't respond with the same men and the same ideas" to challenges such as unemployment.