Most trains were shut down - including Paris subways - and traffic jams multiplied around the country.
The chaos did not dampen the defiant tone of Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who plainly told the public:"You're going to have to work longer."
"We're going to have to give up special pension plans," he said in his first speech since the start of the nationwide strike that could further embolden protesters. Philippe did offer one olive branch, however, saying the reforms would be progressive so that they don't become "brutal."
Macron is determined to push through the changes to France's convoluted and relatively generous retirement system, seeing them as central to his plan to transform the economy.