PARIS: France's unemployment rate fell below 9 percent for the first time since 2009, registering a sharp drop that is likely to boost President Emmanuel Macron's efforts to reform the country's economy.
Unemployment fell to 8.9 percent in the fourth quarter of last year from 9.6 percent in the previous quarter, data from national statistics office INSEE showed on Thursday.
The quarterly drop was the steepest since the 2008 financial crisis, marking a clear downward shift in a rate that has yo-yoed around 10 percent in the last few years.
Macron's first major move as president was to pass a wide-ranging reform of labour rules at the end of September.
His government had come under pressure in recent weeks after several companies, including retailer Carrefour, announced sweeping job cuts, with many taking advantage of the increased flexibility to hire and fire staff that the new regulations allow.
But the economy is also creating jobs at its fastest rate since 2007, and surveys have showed business morale surging to multi-year highs since Macron was elected.
U.S. online retail giant Amazon said earlier on Thursday it would create 2,000 permanent contract positions this year in France.
Thursday's data showed the number of jobless people in mainland France fell by 205,000 in the final three months of 2017, bringing the total number of unemployed to 2.5 million.
The unemployment rates for the third and second quarters of last year were revised down by 0.1 points each, INSEE said.