France’s unemployment rate rose to a record 3.225 million in March, according to the latest figures.

The rate represents a 1.2% rise on the previous month and is 11.5% higher than the same time last year.

March was the 23rd straight month to record a rise in unemployment, with the figure now higher than the previous recorded peak of 3,195,500 set in January 1997.

The figures are a symbolic blow to Socialist President Francois Hollande, whose approval ratings have sunk to the lowest of any modern French leader in recent months as jobless claims soared.

Battling to make good on his promise to reverse the rise in unemployment by the end of this year, he has launched subsidised youth-job schemes and pushed through a reform to make hiring and firing slightly easier.

Hollande today reaffirmed his goal to reverse the rising trend, calling on his government to combine with industry and other players to use all means possible to create jobs.

"Everything the government does, in every ministry, must be to continue to strengthen the battle for jobs," he told a news conference during a state visit to China. "I want all the French people to unite behind this one national priority."

In a satirical dig at Hollande, steelworkers in eastern France erected a marble tombstone to his election promises as ArcelorMittal permanently shut two blast furnaces many had hoped he could save.

In a bitter irony, the only place to have announced any major hiring plan recently is the national employment agency Pole Emploi, which said last month it would hire 2,000 extra staff by September.

Auto-makers, once major job-providers, have announced thousands of staff cuts, with PSA Peugeot Citroen scrapping more than 10,000 domestic jobs and rival Renault aiming to cut 7,500 posts in France by 2016.

The labour ministry data are the most frequently reported jobs indicator in the country, although they are not prepared according to International Labour Organisation standards nor expressed as a percentage of job seekers in the work force.

The March data also showed that the average time that jobseekers spend on the jobless roster hit a new multi-year high of 485 days, up from a previous record of 482 in February, a level that was also reached in April 2000.