The NYT had a very informative piece on the prospects for the labor market changes being pushed through in France by its new president Emmanuel Macron. While the background explaining the proposed changes and their rationale was useful, the article included one important item that is seriously misleading. It said that nearly one in four young people in France is unemployed.

This figure is referring to the unemployment rate for French youth (ages 15–24), which the OECD reports as 24.6 percent. However, this figure is the percent of the labor force who are unemployed, not the percent of the population. The labor force is defined as people who are either employed or report to be looking for work and are therefore classified as unemployed.

In France, many fewer young people work than in the United States because higher education is largely free and students get stipends from the government. As a result, the employment rate for French youth is 28.3 percent, compared to 50.1 percent for the United States. If we look at unemployment as a share of the total youth population, the 8.7 percent rate in France is not hugely higher than the 5.8 percent rate in the United States.

Youth unemployment is still a serious issue in France (as it is the United States), but not quite as serious as the one in four figure may lead people to believe.