The French economy expanded at its fastest pace since 2011 in the third quarter, boosted by an acceleration in consumer spending and robust investment, official data showed today.

The 0.5% increase in the July to September period, which was spot in line with expectations, meant gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by 2.2% over a year, a pace not seen in six years.

Stronger than expected growth in previous quarters provided more good news for President Emmanuel Macron, as his government's growth target of 1.7% is now likely to be surpassed, making his aim to cut France's budget deficit easier.

The €2 trillion economy, the second-largest in the euro zone, grew more than previously forecast in the second quarter of this year and the fourth quarter of last year, with both figures revised up by 0.1% to 0.6%.

Lifted by a broad pick-up in economic growth among its euro zone trading partners, France is also benefiting from rock-bottom interest rates and cuts in companies payroll charges, which have fired up investment from businesses and households.

The recent uplift comes after five years of sluggish growth that left the unemployment rate standing at close to 10%, which Mr Macron has vowed to reduce to 7% by loosening labour rules, cutting taxes further and investing in training.

INSEE said consumer spending rose by 0.5% in the third quarter, after 0.3% the previous quarter, while investment increased by 0.8%, after a 1% rise in the second quarter.

However, trade shaved 0.6 points off GDP, with imports picking up by 2.5%, faster than a 0.7% increase in exports.

A build-up in inventories, mainly in the aerospace sector, contributed 0.5 points to GDP.