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France may need to trim 2013 growth forecast: PM
PARIS (Reuters) - French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Monday the government's forecast for economic growth of 1.2 percent in 2013 may have to be revised downward slightly, in a first sign that it is moving closer to economists' views.
Most economists are much more bearish on the French economy than the government, seeing gross domestic product (GDP) more likely to grow between 0.5 and 1.0 percent next year following stagnant growth this year.
The worsening prospects are weighing on President Francois Hollande, whose approval rating has tumbled following his May election victory as job losses mount and frustration grows over his government's perceived lack of action.
"Today, the hypothesis is based on 1.2 percent," Ayrault said on France 2 TV. "It may be necessary to reduce that a bit."
France is already teetering on the brink of recession. Its central bank said this month the economy was likely to shrink slightly in the third quarter of 2012, dashing hopes of a robust recovery.
A downward revision of growth prospects in 2013 would further crimp Hollande's economic credibility, already damaged by industrial job losses which have overshadowed his promises to create thousands of state-sponsored positions.
On Monday, labor ministry data showed the number of people out of work in France rose for the 15th month in a row in July to the highest level in more than 13 years.
More job losses are expected in September. Unions say companies are preparing to unveil mass layoffs which they held off announcing during elections in May and June.
An Ipsos poll showed Hollande's approval rating had tumbled to 44 percent in August from the previous month - a drop of 11 percentage points.
That puts his popularity lower than conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy at the same period in his mandate.
Little relief is expected in September, when Hollande's government plans to unveil its 2013 budget under the constraint of finding about 30 billion euros ($37.55 billion)in savings to keep in line with European Union deficit-reduction targets.
($1 = 0.7990 euros)
(Reporting By Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
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