France should accelerate return to economic activity, says Le Maire

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PARIS (Reuters) – France to accelerate gradual return to work and business, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Thursday as new data shows the economy has lost half a million jobs in the first quarter.

President Emmanuel Macron’s government has placed France under one of Europe’s toughest locks from mid-March and did not begin lifting restrictions until May 11. Macron is scheduled to address the nation in a television speech on June 14.

“I want economic activity to resume more quickly,” Le Maire said on LCI television, adding that he hoped that activity would return to normal this summer.

The government expects the second largest economy in the eurozone to contract 11% in 2020 and Le Maire told lawmakers on Tuesday that 800,000 jobs are at risk.

Already in the first quarter, more than 500,000 jobs have been lost, largely because short-term contracts were not renewed as the economy locked out, agency data showed on Thursday. of INSEE official statistics.

“France will get there, it will recover and resume growth. We can reduce (unemployment), we can rebound from 2021 if we roll up our sleeves, go back to work and speed up the recovery, “said Le Maire. .

He added that the auto industry, one of the hardest hit, was already returning to normal with likely strong sales in June and July after selling almost no new cars during the lockdown.

(Report by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Myriam Rivet and Leigh Thomas; edited by Edmund Blair and David Evans)

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