France's unemployment rate dropped to 7.5 percent in the first quarter as the euro region's second-biggest economy expanded at double the pace of the previous three months. The jobless rate fell from 7.8 percent in the fourth quarter, according to Insee, the France's economic statistics office. Not including France's overseas territories, the unemployment rate was 7.2 percent, the lowest in 25 years.
France's economic growth accelerated more than economists forecast in the first quarter as stronger exports offset weaker household spending. Still, inflation near the fastest in 12 years is eroding consumer sentiment, signaling expansion may be set to slow this quarter.
Gross domestic product expanded 0.6 percent in the first quarter from the previous three months, when it grew 0.3 percent, Insee reported May 15. French Minister Christine Lagarde expects the economy to grow between 1.7 percent and 2 percent this year, down from 2.2 percent in 2007.
There are signs growth is slowing. Manufacturing and service industries barely expanded in May according to the purchasing managers indexes and retail sales suffered the biggest annual decline in April since records began in 1995.
Christine Lagarde said in an interview with France Info radio today that the percentage of the working-age population in jobs rose in the first quarter to 65.1 percent from 64.7 percent.
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