Cheap oil and a weak euro helped France's economy expand at its fastest rate in two years in the first quarter as consumers spent more freely, but the growth pickup was not sharp enough to generate extra jobs. 

French GDP rose 0.6% quarter-on-quarter, twice the rate in Germany and in Britain - which both reported a slowdown - and beating economists' forecasts. 

France's government said it would now beat its 2015 growth target.

French exports slowed, however, and a depressed property sector kept weighing on the euro zone's second-largest economy, the data from statistics office INSEE showed. 

Separate data today showed the growth rate, accompanied by downward revisions of 0.1 percentage points to each of the previous two quarters, was not strong enough to stop a 0.1% contraction in first quarter employment numbers. 

The French jobless rate stood at 10.4% at the end of last year.

President Francois Hollande, who will be hoping the improving economic outlook boosts his low approval rating, has said he will not run for a second mandate in 2017 if unemployment has not dropped by then. 

The government had based its 2015 budget on a 1% growth forecast but Finance Minister Michel Sapin said after the GDP report: "We will (now) be at more than 1% at year-end." 

The French economy eked out only 0.2% growth last year, a figure INSEE cut today from a previous 0.4% estimate. 

Business investment, at its best since the second quarter of 2008, underpinned the French government's optimism. 

An INSEE survey of industrial company managers showed last week they expected to increase investment 7% this year, the most since 2011. 

With consumer confidence at its highest in more than five years, consumer spending rose 0.8% in the quarter. But household investment contracted for the seventh quarter in a row, showing that property remains a drag on the economy. 

Another challenge for the government is France's high debt level, which INSEE revised up to 95.6% of GDP from a previous level of 95%. 

The Bank of France which, like analysts polled by Reuters, had forecast 0.4% growth for the first quarter, said earlier this week that growth would slow to 0.3% in the second quarter.