Jobless in France would amount to 8,8%. This number, unveiled in a report by the Statistical Office of the European Communities "Eurostat", raised a huge controversy in the financial and political french communities, especially among candidates for the French presidential elections to be held next April.

The controversy concerns the credibility of numbers and statistics on the performance of the French economy. Some politicians accuse the government of bypassing the numbers for political purposes, while others see the statistics of the French Government as "legendary tales" that mothers usually relate to their babies. Others have even seen the numbers published by the Government, especially those linked to jobless and growth rates, as a "political hallucination" that convince only the "naives".

In a report published today, Eurostat revised up its estimates for the unemployment rate in France for the month of February. Eurostat stressed that the unemployment rate stood at 8,8%, while the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) reported that the rate was 8,4%.

On the other hand, Eurostat revised its previous estimates of the jobless rate in France for several months, explaining that these rates have reflected an increase between 0,4% and 0,5% since May 2006.

Once the report of Eurostat was published, the question of the credibility of pfficial french numbers and statistics on unemployment, which is one of the most important issues of the race on the Elysee, erupted.

For its part, the current rightist government, which supports the candidate of the "Union for a popular movement" (UMP), Nicolas Sarkozy, welcomed what was achieved in February when the government was able to lower the unemployment rate to its lowest level since June 1983.

The attitude of the opposition parties was different. The Socialist Party has questioned the credibility of figures on the unemployment rate given by the government, while the party's candidate in presidential elections, Ségolène Royal, announced her plan to overcome unemployment. A plan that proposes that government support for a year "all salaries and expenses" of unskilled youth, aged 16 and over, in the craft and trade companies not exceeding ten employees.

According to the plan Royale, called "first chance contract", employers undertake to recruit these young people who will be entitled to unemployment benefits for one year if case of loosing their jobs.

The French reaction to this plan was positive, as it was shown in one opinion poll conducted by the magazine "Les Echos". 44% of French think that Royal will be more effective to solve the unemployment problem than Sarkozy. 42% of French remains favorable to Sarkozy.

For his part, Maurice Leroy, close to the candidate of the French Democratic Union (center) François Bayrou, said that the government is taking citizens for "naives". He said that during the past 26 years various French governments used to announce, before the presidential elections, te declining of unemployment and inflation rates and the rising of the purchasing power.

For the candidate of the Communist Party, Marie-George Buffet, the published numbers are false: "The makeup of the numbers is not fooling anyone, least of all the French", she has said.

Meanwhile, the candidate of "the Workers Struggle" Arlette Laguiller see that the Government's numbers are just nonsense. "The numbers published by the government are similar to a lie of the state", she said.

According to Laguiller, many frustrated young people do not subscripe their names on the lists of jobless. She added that the number of unemployed may not have declined while there's a continuous cut of jobs in all companies in all regions of the country. She sees that the number of unemployed is much higher than the numbers published by the government without counting all the "partial unemployed who have a limited contract, the interim".

The candidate of the "Movement for France" Philippe de Villiers has accused the government of falsifying numbers on unemployment.

For his part, the independent candidate and anti-globalization, José Bové think that all the numbers are not on the table, including those of overseas territories. "The current numbers do not reflect the reality of unemployment", he said.

According to him, France has experienced the last year troubles and riots in the suburbs in several French cities, including Paris. These suburbs show a very high unemployment.

Following the riots, mass demonstrations broke out because of the crisis of the First Employment Contract developed by the government of Dominique de Villepin. This contract had a "consolidation period" of two years during which the employer may terminate the employment contract without giving the reason. Operation deemed unfair by many French.