French economy falls back into recession

Wednesday 15 May 2013 11.20
French GDP contracted by 0.2% in the first quarter of 2013
French GDP contracted by 0.2% in the first quarter of 2013

France's economy is in recession again - and that could spell more trouble for Europe.

The national statistics agency, Insee, said that gross domestic product fell 0.2% in the first quarter of the year. 

The agency also revised its data for the fourth quarter of last year, saying GDP fell 0.2%, up from a 0.3% retraction.

A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

News of the fall into recession comes on the first anniversary of President Francois Hollande's swearing in. During that year, Hollande has had to deal with mounting economic problems.

France's economy has not grown significantly in nearly two years and European data show it was last in recession at the beginning of 2012. Economists say its high unemployment rate of 10.6% is more proof that its economy is in trouble.

A recession in France, the euro zone's second-largest economy, is likely to exacerbate problems around the region since it is a major market for its neighbours.

Slow growth is plaguing many European countries as they struggle to cut their spending and debts, and France's finance minister blamed his country's problems on the region.

"We are in Europe, the euro zone countries are our main clients and our main suppliers, and when the environment around us is depressed, well, that's the main factor in the slowing of the French economy," Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said after today's Cabinet meeting.

Meanwhile, new figures show that the euro zone economy contracted for the sixth quarter in a row at the start of this year.

But France's problems also stem from high government spending, a weak labour market and sliding competitiveness among its companies. Household consumption and production of good and services were both down, according to Insee. Expenditure on manufactured goods, especially cars, was hit hard, falling 0.9% in the first quarter.

Despite the grim news, Moscovici said the government is maintaining its projection that the economy will grow 0.1% this year and that it will manage to begin to bring down unemployment by the end of the year.