Paris (AFP)

The French economy should rebound significantly this year, estimates Thursday Insee which forecasts growth of 6%, significantly higher than the government estimate, thanks in particular to a strong recovery in household consumption after a year of restrictions.

According to the National Institute of Statistics, after the historic 8% recession recorded in 2020, economic activity "could return to roughly its pre-crisis level by the end of 2021", a little before what anticipate at this stage the government or other institutions, such as the Bank of France.

The government expects growth of 5% in 2021 and a return of activity to the pre-crisis level in the first quarter of 2022, while the Banque de France is hoping for a GDP increase of 5.75%.

But this return to the level of the end of 2019 "does not mean that the economy would be a carbon copy" of what it was before the crisis, warned Julien Pouget, head of the economic situation at INSEE, during 'a press conference.

"There will be sectoral recompositions", he explains, with accommodation, catering and the aeronautical industry which will remain behind schedule.

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For INSEE, after a "long winter", marked by health restrictions and an economy still in recession in the first quarter (-0.1%), spring appears more "mixed", with April still confined , then a gradual lifting of restrictions which has resulted in a "strong recovery" since the end of May.

GDP should thus have grown by 0.7% in the second quarter.

Growth should accelerate significantly in the third (+ 3.4%), before falling back to + 0.7% in the fourth.

The increase in GDP is expected to be driven by household consumption (+ 5.2%) and business investment (+ 9.5%), which at the end of 2021 will exceed their level at the end of 2019. Conversely, trade exterior would weigh slightly negatively.

These forecasts assume that even in the event of a resurgence of the epidemic by the end of the year, the deployment of vaccination could prevent the application of restrictions that are too restrictive for the activity.

On the employment front, the recovery in activity should result in a "fairly sharp" rebound in salaried employment, which would increase by more than 300,000, returning to its pre-crisis level, forecasts INSEE .

But with the return to the labor market of people who had departed from it with the crisis, the unemployment rate would ultimately remain almost stable at 8.2% at the end of 2021, after 8.1% at the start of the year.

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