Unemployment is rising for some and falling for others, who can believe?

LE SCAN ECO – Divergent data on the evolution of the number of unemployed have been published over the past three days. Taking into account the margins of error in the calculations, the differences in definition and the frequent revisions of the published data, everyone is right and wrong …

We are sailing in full 4th dimension! Three days apart, the French were showered with contradictory information on the evolution of, to the point of losing their Latin. It all started on Monday with the publication of registrations at Pôle Emploi in April. Results? One, the 31st increase since the start of the five-year term and the third monthly in a row, bringing to 35,300 the increase in the number of unemployed since the beginning of the year.

On Wednesday, it was the OECD that began to sow confusion by announcing an after an equally slight increase in the first two quarters. 2015 will therefore close on the rate at the end of 2014 (10.5% throughout France). And patatras this Thursday morning with the which displays… a decrease, of 0.1 point. In short, the number of job seekers, within the meaning of the ILO, fell over the first three months of the year. And I am not talking about the forecast, also fallen this Thursday morning, from the Banque de France which indicates that the unemployment rate will be 10.3% at the end of the year in metropolitan France, against 10.2% at the end of 2014 . Go figure …

Well, there are several points to be clarified in order to try to see things clearly. First of all, the definitions of job seekers from Pôle Emploi and INSEE are not the same. One can be unemployed for one without being unemployed for the other, and vice versa. As a result, the two figures diverge regularly both in terms of development and level. Thus, over the first three months of the year, Pôle emploi recorded an increase of 9,100 registrations in category A when INSEE totaled 38,000 less unemployed according to the ILO. As a result, according to the administrative definition of unemployment (the meter reading at the end of each month by Pôle Emploi and the Ministry of Labor) there are some 3.5 million unemployed in mainland France, against a little over 2.85 million according to the survey carried out each quarter by INSEE. Or a delta of some 700,000 unemployed who therefore do not exist according to the statistics department of the Ministry of the Economy.

“I hope for a drop in the number of job seekers at the end of the year”

François Rebsamen, Minister of Labor

Then the slight drop in the unemployment rate in the 1st quarter announced by INSEE is, in a way, a real false drop. And this for two reasons. First, the unemployment rate for the fourth quarter of 2014 was revised upwards by 0.1 point, so that the level reached at the end of March (10% in metropolitan France) is what we thought three years ago. months, having reached at the end of last year. As if nothing had happened in the past six months. Moreover, over one year, the unemployment rate still shows an increase of 0.2 point.

Second, the halo of unemployment – in particular people wishing to work, available quickly, but who have not actively looked for work – increased strongly over the first three months of the year. From 71,000 people precisely, while it increases on average each quarter from 20,000 to 40,000, with a peak of 55,000 in the first quarter of 2014. It is therefore further proof that no positive conclusions can be drawn from the decline of the unemployment rate in the first quarter announced by INSEE.

All these data should finally be taken with a grain of salt because of their high volatility. They are indeed likely to be constantly revised, upwards or downwards. We see it with the unemployment rate for the 4th quarter of 2014, announced three months ago at 10% in metropolitan France and which was finally raised ex-post by 0.1 point on Thursday, reaching its highest under the five-year term ( 10.1%), unheard of since the end of 1997. INSEE also indicates, in its note of the day, that it has also revised the rates for the first and third quarters of 2014.

The margin of error is in fact so small that it can be confused with the quarterly variations. The situation is identical for the monthly figures of Pôle Emploi, which are fully revised once a year, at the end of each month of February. Thus, increases turn into decreases and declines into increases. The only thing that we know in the end about the evolution of unemployment is that we do not know anything specific …