Francois Hollande
French President Francois Hollande has watched his economy struggle as Germany bounces back (Reuters)

French unemployment has topped the three million mark during the second quarter, just as the eurozone currency bloc as a whole finally emerged from recession.

Now that 10.9% of the French population are unemployed - an increase of 0.1% in the rate on the quarter - the heat has been turned up on the Socialist government of President Francois Hollande to take more bold steps to combat France's entrenched economic malaise.

Such disappointing figures demonstrate that France is falling behind Germany in the dominant partnership that has defined Europe's direction since the Second World War.

However, there was some positive news as the employment rate for those aged 15-64 increased by 0.1% in the second quarter of 2013 taking the total up to 63.9%.

Meanwhile the employment rate of those aged between 50-64 years remained stable and the activity rate of the population aged 15-64 years increased by 0.1% and stood at 71.4%.

France Compared to Everyone Else

Positive European data published on 4 September seems to have brought a degree of quiet optimism to European policymakers, investors and market watchers as they look for any sign of economic life.

The Markit Eurozone Composite Output Index signalled the second consecutive month of growth with Germany measuring the strongest performance in August of the four biggest eurozone economies.

Output for the leading economy in Europe reached a seven month high, while France registered the fastest overall fall in output in July.

France's inability to improve its competitiveness at home or exercise definitive leverage in relation to Germany abroad have led some to speculate that France is in long-term decline.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is enjoying high poll ratings in Germany reflecting her popularity with voters, while Hollande does not command the same confidence among the French electorate.

Continuing economic stagnation in France and the coming national elections in Germany, which are widely expected to return Merkel to power for a third term, might only make circumstances more difficult for Hollande.

With France's economy stagnating and unemployment likely to remain high, it could mean that President Hollande's unpopularity will continue to soar as well as he seems to react to events rather than dictate them.