In her Washington Post column, Catherine Rampell repeats some ill-founded conventional wisdom in telling readers that French president Emmanuel Macron's plans to weaken labor unions and reduce restrictions on laying off workers are the path to revitalizing France's economy. In fact, this claim is not supported by the evidence. There is little evidence that strong unions or labor market protections are associated with high unemployment.
The most obvious reason that France has had high unemployment is the turn to austerity in 2010 following the economic crisis. As a result of the cutbacks in government spending, there was no source of demand to replace the demand generated by asset bubbles prior to the crisis. For some reason, this fact is rarely mentioned in reporting on France's economy.
It is also worth noting that France's "stagnant labor market" has a much higher employment rate for prime age (ages 25 to 54) workers than the U.S. labor market (79.7 percent in France compared to 78.2 percent in the United States). This fact would seem to undermine the case that regulations are seriously hampering France's labor market.