The first-quarter contraction was the biggest on a quarterly basis since World War II, surpassing the previous record of minus 5.3 per cent in the second
Since March 17, France’s 67 million people have been ordered to stay at home except to buy food, go to work, seek medical care or get some exercise on their own. (Photo: Reuters)
France saw its sharpest economic contraction since World War II in the first quarter as a lockdown from mid-March left shops shuttered and consumers hunkered down at home, official data showed on Thursday.
French gross domestic product shrank 5.8 per cent in the quarter from the previous three months, the INSEE official statistics agency said.
That marked the second consecutive quarter the economy contracted, after shrinking 0.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2019, meaning it is technically in recession.
The first-quarter contraction was the biggest on a quarterly basis since World War II, surpassing the previous record of minus 5.3 per cent in the second quarter of 1968 when France was gripped by civil unrest, mass student protests and general strikes.
The slump even exceeded most economists’ expectations, which on average were for minus 3.5 per cent, although estimates in Reuters poll went as low as minus 7 per cent.
Since March 17, France’s 67 million people have been ordered to stay at home except to buy food, go to work, seek medical care or get some exercise on their own.
INSEE said consumer spending, usually the driver of the French economy, dropped 6.1 per cent in the first quarter from the previous three months while business investment plunged 11.4 per cent.
The lockdown is due to begin winding down from May 11, but the government has warned that bankruptcies and unemployment are likely to spike upwards in its wake.
The government expects the economy will contract at least 8 per cent this year and has rushed through a crisis package worth 110 billion euros minus 4 per cent of GDP – to help companies and workers.
INSEE has previously estimated economic activity is at about two-thirds of normal levels and more than one out of two private sector workers has been put on state-subsidised furloughs aimed at staving off permanent mass layoffs.
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