Hollande Pledges $2.2 Billion on French Jobs Push

French President François Hollande said Monday he will pour more than EUR2 billion ($2.2 billion) in public money into apprenticeships and training schemes as part of an emergency plan to combat the unrelenting rise in unemployment.

The French leader said economic growth remains too weak to have a sustainable impact on unemployment, which has crept upwards throughout his presidency to reach 10.6% last year, an 18-year high. Consumer spending is not strong enough and the recovery in business investment is too fragile, despite EUR40 billion in tax breaks to boost corporate margins, Mr. Hollande said.

"There is an economic and social state of emergency," Mr. Hollande said addressing business leaders and labor unions.

With little more than a year to go until presidential elections, it is the Socialist leader's last salvo in his battle against unemployment.

French President François Hollande's state-sponsored employment initiative includes an extra 500,000 training schemes this year.

It marks a shift back toward traditional Socialist policies and a declining emphasis on pro-business policies that split Mr. Hollande's support base and contributed to making him the least popular French president on record.

Still, Mr. Hollande also said he will pursue his pro-business stance by offering a EUR2,000 bonus to companies hiring new staff on salaries close to the minimum wage.

The Socialist leader said France must find a model between economic liberalism and "immobility without a future."

"There is a path: encouraged work, valued work and respected work," Mr. Hollande said.

Write to William Horobin at William.Horobin@wsj.com