France’s economy shrank by nearly 14% in the second quarter when the country was in coronavirus lockdown
July 31, 2020, 6:51 AM
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PARIS -- France's economy shrank by nearly 14% in the second quarter when the country was in coronavirus lockdown, a third consecutive quarter of negative growth in a worsening recession, the national statistics agency said Friday.
The startling plunge of 13.8% from April-June starkly illustrated the punishing economic cost of the two-month lockdown. The pain was so damaging to jobs and industries that the government is talking down the possibility of another nationwide lockdown as infections tick upward again.
France's economy was already slowing, shrinking by 0.2% in the last quarter of 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic hit with full force.
French GDP shrank by 5.9% in the first quarter of 2020 as a flood of COVID-19 patients overwhelmed hospitals. The French statistics agency Insee readjusted that figure downward Friday, from its earlier estimate of a 5.3% first-quarter plunge.
With COVID-19 having now killed more than 30,000 people and infected more than 186,000 in France, the health crisis prompted the government in March to introduce what was one of Europe's strictest lockdowns, halting much activity in the second-largest economy of the countries that use the euro currency.
In releasing its morose figures Friday, Insee said the economic low-point was in April, when only workers deemed essential were able to leave their homes. Activity started to pick up again from May as authorities began to ease lockdown restrictions, Insee added.
Insee's figures showed that the construction industry was among the hardest-hit, as worksites stood idle, with laborers forced to stay home.
Locked-down families, many surviving on government handouts and job-preservation schemes, tightened their purse strings: Insee reported an 11% plunge in household spending from April-June, following a drop of 5.8% in the first quarter.
Trade was also battered, as global lockdowns grounded flights, closed borders and factories, and threw transport into disarray. French imports, already down by 5.5% in the first quarter, shrank further in the second quarter, down 17.3%.
The damage to exports was even more pronounced, down by a whopping 25,5% in the second quarter after retreating by 6.1% in the first quarter.