PARIS (Reuters) – French consumer confidence suffered its biggest ever monthly drop in April, when the country was locked down to contain the coronavirus epidemic, the INSEE statistics agency said on Tuesday.
Its monthly consumer confidence index fell to its lowest level since January 2019, dropping to 95 from 103 in March – the steepest monthly decline since INSEE started its survey in 1972.
Householders’ outlook about the future economic situation was the gloomiest on record and concerns about unemployment were the highest since July 2015, INSEE said.
The labour market is fast shrinking despite state-subsidised furloughs designed to avoid mass permanent layoffs, with more than one of every two private sector workers covered by the programme.
The Labour Ministry said on Monday that the number of people registered as seeking work rose by the most in records going back to 1996 as people stopped getting jobs and short-term employment contracts were not renewed amid the lockdown.
France has been under stay-at-home orders since mid-March.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is to detail plans on Tuesday to unwind the lockdown from May 11.
Householders are also bracing for a sharp jump in inflation eroding their purchasing power, with expectations for price increases the highest since early 1991, INSEE said.
That may jar nerves at the Bank of France, which is predicting that the current downturn will keep inflation weak for the foreseeable future.
(Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Andrew Heavens and John Stonestreet)