PARIS (Reuters) - The French government cut its overall social security deficit to less than 8 billion euros ($8.50 billion) last year, better than initially planned, Budget Minister Christian Eckert said on Wednesday.


If confirmed by figures due to be published on Thursday, that would mark an improvement from 2015 when the social security accounts, which covers spending on healthcare and welfare benefits, showed a deficit of 10.8 billion euros.


It would also be less than the deficit of 9.7 billion euros originally budgeted by the government, although it would be bigger than the 7.1 billion euros an independent commission that reviews the social welfare accounts had forecast in September.


"Eight billion for the overall (social) deficit, that will be a maximum," Eckert told a group of journalists. "The deficit social security accounts will show a sharp improvement from the initial welfare budget bill."


The social security deficit is a part of the overall public sector deficit, which also includes the central state and local government finances.

The government's 2016 budget forecast an overall public deficit of 3.3 percent of economic output. A first estimate is due to be published on March 24.

(Reporting by Myriam Rivet; writing by Leigh Thomas; editing by Brian Love)