France slips into recession in first quarter

France, the eurozone’s second biggest economy, fell into recession in the first quarter of 2021 with a 0.1 percent contraction, revised official data showed on Friday, Reuters reports.

The INSEE statistics office revised its GDP reading sharply down from +0.4 percent, saying data from the construction sector had been much weaker than its extrapolation had suggested.

It followed a 1.5 percent contraction in the final three months of 2020.

A revision of half a percentage point is highly unusual in France and underscores the challenges governments have faced in responding to the coronavirus pandemic as it roils economies around the globe.

In a further sign of difficulties, household spending, the driving force of France’s economic activity, fell by 8.3 percent in the first month of the second quarter after President Emmanuel Macron ordered a third national coronavirus lockdown. That stay-at-home order is now being slowly unwound.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Thursday stuck to his growth forecast of 5 percent for 2021 and said the crisis was “moving behind us, though we must remain cautious.”

Full year 2020 GDP was slightly better than expected at -8 percent versus a previous estimate of -8.2 percent, INSEE said.

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