The French economy stagnated in the first quarter and investment continued to decline but purchasing power saw an improvement, the state statistics agency said today. 

Confirming an earlier estimate, INSEE said the French economy saw zero growth in the first quarter, with paltry 0.7% growth expected for the whole of 2014. 

Purchasing power was up by 1.3%, it said, but consumers appeared to be setting money aside instead of putting it back into the economy. Consumer spending was down by 0.5% and the household savings rate rose to 15.9%. 

Corporate profit margins were up by 0.5 points to 30%, it said, "the biggest increase since the start of 2010".  

But companies also seemed unwilling to spend, with corporate investment down 0.6% in the first quarter. 

President Francois Hollande's deeply unpopular Socialist government is struggling to turn around France's sluggish economy and stem rising joblessness. 

It received more bad news this week when the labour ministry said the number of registered unemployed in France suffered a big jump in May, rising by 24,800 to a new record of 3.388 million.