PARIS (AP) _ France's jobless rate dropped to 9.8 perecent in May, its lowest level in more than eight years, French statistics officials said Friday.

April's unemployment rate was originally posted at 9.8 percent but the figure was later upwardly revised to 9.9 percent. It was celebrated as the first time in almost a decade that joblessness had dipped below double digits.

The latest decline in the unemployment rate left it at the lowest figure since December 1991, the French national statistics institute, INSEE, said.

Unemployment is sharply down from the postwar high of 12.6 percent set three years ago, when the left swept legislative elections, in part on promises of creating jobs.

The Labor Ministry said in a statement that the number of job seekers dropped in May to 53,000, a dip of 2.2 percent from a month earlier and 17 percent from a year ago.

However, the further decline in the unemployment rate below 10 percent does raise the specter of labor bottlenecks in the economy, which might slow growth and spark inflation.

Bank of France Governor Jean-Claude Trichet warned the government Thursday, in an annual address, that higher levels of investment and greater labor market flexibility are necessary if France is to sustain noninflationary growth, noting shortages of skilled labor in many sectors.

Also on Thursday, Finance Minister Laurent Fabius acknowledged that France faces a challenge in training workers, to redress the imbalance between areas of still-high unemployment and labor scarcity.