Italy's economy shrank in the third quarter, a first since 2014, official data showed today, upping the pressure on the country's populist government and its big spending budget. 

Italy's gross domestic product contracted by 0.1% between July and September compared to the previous quarter, the national institute of statistics said.

This was a downward revision from a previous estimate of stagnant or 0% growth. 

Year-on-year, the Italian economy grew 0.7% in the third quarter, statistics agency ISTAT said. 

Unemployment in Italy was up 0.2% at 10.6%, well above the euro zone average of 8.1%, ISTAT also said today. 

The agency forecast last week that the economy would grow 1.3% next year, below the government's estimate of 1.5% included in a big-spending budget rejected by Brussels. 

ISTAT said growth this year will come in at a slower 1.1% but added that unemployment could improve slightly in both years. 

Italy's populist government has argued that after years of failed austerity policies, it is time to stimulate the economy to offer Italians some respite and hope for the future. 

Rome has submitted to the European Union a 2019 budget based on a public deficit of 2.4% of gross domestic product in 2019 - three times the target of the government's centre-left predecessor - and one of 2.1% in 2020. 

But Brussels says this will only increase Italy's overall debt, with the deficit hitting 2.9% of GDP in 2019 and 3.1% in 2020 - breaching the EU's 3% limit.