French unemployment rose to 10.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, the highest in almost 14 years, according to official data released on Thursday. The jobless rate in the eurozone's second-largest economy increased by 0.4 percentage points from 10.2 percent in third quarter of last year, the national statistics institute Insee said. It now stands at the highest level since the second quarter of 1999, when overall French unemployment hit 10.7 percent of the workforce. When calculated according to International Labour Organisation standards, Insee said that 2.9 million people were currently without work in France. French President Francois Hollande has cited cutting unemployment, which has now risen for six consecutive quarters, as one of his main objectives, a goal he reiterated on Monday while acknowledging that it would be "difficult." Insee records dating back to 1996 show an all-time high of 11.2 percent, in the first, second and third quarters of 1997. A breakdown of the fourth quarter 2012 data showed that youths between the ages of 15 and 24 were especially hard hit late last year, with a jump of 1.6 percentage points on the quarter to a new record of 25.7 percent. The comparable rate for seniors between the ages of 55 and 64 rose to 7.2 percent, Insee said, while adding that they remained the largest segment of the workforce at 45.8 percent owing to a trend towards longer careers that stemmed from pension reforms. Insee has also calculated that the French economy produced no growth last year, and said that unemployment would probably not improve in the near term, estimating that the overall rate would increase further to 10.9 percent in the second quarter of this year. For mainland France, excluding overseas departments and territories, the figure was forecast to reach 10.5 percent, near that category's all-time record of 10.8 percent reached in 1994 and 1997.