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PARIS (Reuters) - The number of people out of work in France hit a record high in April, the daily Les Echos said on Thursday, casting more doubt on President Francois Hollande's pledge to reverse a long-running rise in unemployment.
The number of registered jobseekers rose by about 40,000 in April from March's previous high, the financial daily reported ahead of the official publication of the figures later on Thursday. It did not quote its sources.
The data was widely expected to show another increase, marking two straight years of monthly rises and the worst level since records began in January 1996.
Without confirming the data, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told regional newspapers he expected April unemployment data "would not be good."
"We have just had two quarters of a recession that is hitting both France and the euro zone. In this context, the job market cannot take off," he said in an interview published on Le Progres de Lyon website.
The government is holding to its pledge to turn around the trend by year-end despite multiple forecasts to the contrary, hoping that the economy will start to pick up in the second half of 2013 and that subsidised jobs will help keep a lid on unemployment.
The European Commission, the OECD and France's own jobless benefit fund all see unemployment continuing to rise through 2014. The EU executive said on Wednesday it expects French unemployment to reach 10.6 percent this year after 10.2 percent last year and keep increasing to 10.9 percent in 2014.
The labour ministry data is the most frequently reported jobs indicator in France, although it is not prepared according to International Labour Organisation standards nor expressed as a percentage of job seekers in the work force.
It was not clear whether the 40,000 figure given by Les Echos applied to the most-watched indicator published by the ministry - jobless claims in mainland France - or included overseas territories or people who work a few hours a month.
Reporting by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Ruth Pitchford