The French economy is expected to expand by 1.6% this year, the country's central bank said today, well short of the 2% goal originally set by the government for this year. 

The slower growth is likely to compound the challenges facing President Emmanuel Macron.

He has campaigned on a pledge to dynamise the economy with reforms that would make it easier to do business in the country.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire had already acknowledged this week that growth was unlikely to reach that target, forecasting a 1.7% rise in GDP.

"After an exceptional year in 2017 as France benefited from strong global demand, exports will continue to have a positive impact on growth in 2018 but will have a neutral impact going forward," Bank of France governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau said. 

As recently as July the central bank had been forecasting growth of 1.8%, anticipating an uptick in the later part of this year. 

It also expects inflation to reach 2.1% for the full year, a trend which could alarm consumers already worried about eroded spending power. 

Looking forward, however, the central bank expects unemployment to decline steadily to around 8.5% in 2020 from the 9.4% recorded last year.

Poll ratings for Macron, a former investment banker, have slumped to their lowest levels since his election in May 2017, as tax cuts intended to spur spending have yet to bear much fruit. 

He has also struggled to shake off perceptions that he is the "president of the rich," despite pledging this week to tackle poverty with a four-year plan worth €8 billion. 

An Odoxa survey published on Tuesday showed that just 29% of respondents considered the 40-year-old centrist leader a "good president", down 12 points from a similar poll in the summer.