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French economy sees fastest growth in four years

AFP / Remy Gabalda | Molten glass bottles are pictured as they pass on a conveyor belt in a glass factory on June 17, 2015 in Albi, southwestern France.

France’s struggling economy recorded its biggest annual growth for four years in 2015 at 1.1 percent, according to provisional figures released Friday, though the country still lags behind many of its eurozone neighbours.

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Figures from France’s national statistics body INSEE estimated that the country’s GDP grew by 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, while confirming growth of 0.3 percent in the third quarter.

The full-year growth figure, up from 0.2 percent in 2014, was in line with the government's predictions and the biggest increase since 2011.

But despite the much needed economic boost, France is still trailing behind the average growth rate for eurozone countries of 1.5 percent.

Nevertheless, the government hailed the figures as a turnaround in the country’s economic fortunes after years of stagnation.

"2015 was the year of the recovery," Finance Minister Michel Sapin told AFP, predicting that the trend would "intensify in 2016" and spur job creation.

Sapin said the fact that output had continued expanding in the fourth quarter, despite devastating jihadist attacks that left 130 people dead in November and dealt a severe blow to tourism, showed "the French did not give up".

In a sign of increased consumer confidence, consumer spending shot up 1.4 percent in 2015, while business investment grew 2 percent year-on-year.

The figures provide some rare good news for the Socialist government after further disappointment on the jobs front this week.

On Wednesday, the labour ministry announced that unemployment – the scourge of President François Hollande's administration – had risen again in December, taking the number of jobless to a new record of 3.59 million.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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