PARIS (AP) -- France has entered a recession, with negative growth expected in the third and fourth quarters of 2008, the country's national statistics agency said Friday.
The Insee statistics agency said it expects the economy to shrink by 0.1 percent in both the third and fourth quarters. Following on a 0.3 percent fall in the second quarter, that would bring growth down to 0.9 percent for 2008.
The agency said it expects unemployment to rise to 7.4 percent by the end of the year. In the third semester of 2007, France's jobless rate stood at 7.2 percent.
Insee's projections have sparked a debate over the definition of recession, which economists generally define as two consecutive quarters of falling gross domestic product.
Government officials have been quick to insist France is experiencing very slow growth and is not in a true recession because growth for the year is still expected to be positive and is close to the government's projection of 1.0 percent growth for the year.
Insee said its projections are based on the premise that the current global financial crisis does not worsen and that credit markets do not tighten.