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Thursday, Oct 21, 2021

France in double-dip recession as figures show first quarter worse than thought

France in double-dip recession as figures show first quarter worse than thought

Europe's second biggest economy is emerging from a third lockdown which has taken a renewed toll on spending this spring.

France has suffered a double-dip recession according to revised official figures that showed it had a worse start to the year than previously thought.

Europe's second biggest economy shrank by 0.1% in the first quarter of 2021, sharply revised from an initial estimate of 0.4% growth, statistical agency INSEE said.

It was the second consecutive quarter of contraction - the definition of a recession - after the economy shrank by 1.5% in the last three months of 2020.

Emmanuel Macron's government has spent tens of billions trying to shore up the economy

France had already been dragged into recession earlier in 2020 due to the pandemic, meaning it has now suffered a so-called "double-dip".

By the end of March this year the French economy was still 4.7% below its level at the end of 2019, according to INSEE.

The latest revision, reflecting a poorer than expected performance for the construction sector, underscores the challenges faced by France and its European neighbours as they battled a fresh wave of COVID-19 infections this year.

President Emmanuel Macron's government has spent tens of billions of euros to try to shore up the economy and protect jobs during the crisis.

But a resurgence in cases resulted in the country going into a third national lockdown, spelling further difficulties for the economy with new figures showing household spending fell by 8.3% in April - the start of the second quarter.

The restrictions are now being unwound and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire this week stuck to his growth forecast of 5% for 2021.

Latest restrictions have started to ease

He said the crisis was "moving behind us, though we must remain cautious".

Germany, Europe's biggest economy, also contracted in the first quarter though a spell of growth at the end of 2020 meant it was not in recession.

Similarly, UK GDP shrank by 1.5% over the January-March period this year - thanks to the latest lockdown - but had grown in the fourth quarter, meaning it avoided a double-dip.

Overall, Britain's economy shrank by 9.8% in 2020, worse than any other country in the G7 group of major advanced nations. French GDP contracted by 8%.


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