April 30, 2020 / 5:35 AM / a month ago

Coronavirus plunges French economy into worst post-war slump

PARIS, April 30 (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% in the quarter from the previous three months, when the euro zone’s second-biggest economy contracted 0.1%, the INSEE official statistics agency said.

The first quarter contraction was the biggest on a quarterly basis since World War II, surpassing the previous record of -5.3% 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 -3.5%, although estimates in Reuters poll went as low as -7%.

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% in the first quarter from the previous three months while business investment plunged 11.4%. (Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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