France has entered its second recession in four years after the economy shrank by 0.2% in the first quarter of 2013, according to official figures.
The country’s economy shrank by the same amount in the last quarter of 2012. A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth.
France has record unemployment and low business and consumer confidence.
German figures, also released, showed its economy, the eurozone’s strongest, grew by just 0.1% in Q1 2013.
France entered its worst recession since World War II in 2009. Although it was thought to have been in recession in 2012, these figures have now been revised to show only one quarter of negative growth.
The news comes on the first anniversary of Francois Hollande being sworn in as president.
Earlier this month, the European Commission warned that France would enter recession this year and said the eurozone’s economy would shrink by 0.4%.
The European Central Bank (ECB) cut interest rates at its last meeting to a record low of 0.5% in an attempt to stimulate growth.
In France, the rate of unemployment is running at 10.6% and is forecast to rise further next year.
Its deficit is also expected to rise sharply, the commission says, to 3.9% of GDP – well above the EU deficit target of 3%.
But French unemployment is below the eurozone average, which was 11.4% in 2012 and is expected to hit an average of 12.2% this year. In both Greece and Spain, it is expected to peak at 27%.
France this week passed a range of measures aimed at stopping the rise in unemployment by reforming the country’s labor laws.
These include measures to make it easier for workers to change jobs and for companies to fire employees.
The French economy has performed better than other eurozone members, including Spain and Italy, but it has not moved as quickly to reform its economy.
One of the new bill’s main measures is to allow companies to cut workers’ salaries or hours temporarily during times of sluggish economic performance, something that is common in Germany.
The figure for German growth, the largest and still the strongest economy in the 17-strong eurozone, was far weaker than expected. Economists had expected to see growth of 0.3% in the first quarter.
Annual figures from the Statistics Office also show the German economy has shrunk by 1.4% when compared with a year ago.
But in a statement it said this was partly due to severe winter weather: “The German economy is only slowly picking up steam. The extreme winter weather played a role in this weak growth.”