PARIS, Nov 23 (Reuters) - French business activity grew at the fastest pace in 6-1/2 years this month, confounding economists’ expectations for a slowdown, as recent labour reforms pushed firms to add staff quicker than at anytime since 2001, a survey showed on Thursday.
Data compiler IHS Markit said its preliminary composite purchasing managers index (PMI) jumped to 60.1 points in November from 57.4 the previous month, the first time the index rose above 60 since May 2011.
The reading beat the 57.2 consensus forecast of economists polled by Reuters, pulling further away from the 50-point threshold separating expansions in activity from contractions.
“The party goes on for the French private sector economy,” IHS Markit Economist Alex Gill said.
France’s dominant service sector saw the pace of growth pick up to 60.2 from 57.3 in October, easily surpassing the 57.0 economists expected on average.
Meanwhile, the index for the manufacturing sector rose to 57.5 from 56.1, handily beating the 55.9 pencilled in by economists.
Markit economist Chris Williamson said an increase in new orders and swelling backlogs of work were signs the momentum would be sustained in December and put France on course for GDP growth of 0.7 percent in the final quarter of the year.
“In terms of exports and solid domestic demand, it’s a nice broad-based upturn that looks like it has plenty of legs,” Williamson said.
In good news for President Emmanuel Macron, who has pledged to cut a stubbornly high unemployment rate of near 10 percent, companies said they hired staff at the fastest pace since March 2001 this month.
”A combination of strong demand and labour market reforms enacted by the current and previous administrations continues to
drive employment growth,” Markit’s Gill said. Macron passed five decrees overhauling France’s labour rules at the end of September, making hiring and firing easier. .
Reporting by Michel Rose; Additional reporting by Jonathan; Cable; Editing by Hugh Lawson; email@example.com; +33149495071; Reuters; Messaging: Twitter: twitter.com/MichelReuters