French growth seen pushing 52-year high of 6.7% this year - INSEE

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PARIS, Dec 14 (Reuters) - France's economic recovery is proving stronger than expected this year and growth is on course for a 52-year high, putting the job market on a sound footing heading into an election year, the official statistics office forecast on Tuesday.

In its latest economic outlook, INSEE estimated that the French economy would grow 6.7% this year, the highest rate since 1969 and better than the 6.25% it had previously expected.

The euro zone's second biggest economy has rebounded strongly as coronavirus restrictions were eased and a vaccination campaign gained momentum from mid-year.

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On a quarterly basis, INSEE expected the economy to grow around 0.5% each quarter through to the middle of next year, after a particularly strong third quarter that exceeded expectations with 3% growth.

It estimated that 153,000 net new jobs were created in the second half of this year and that a further 80,000 would be added in the next six months as many firms struggle to find enough staff to meet customer demand.

INSEE predicted that would help push the unemployment rate from 7.8% in the fourth quarter to 7.6% by mid-2022, offering President Emmanuel Macron some good news heading into an April presidential election in which he is expected to run for a second term.

The fall would bring unemployment to the lowest since 2008 - with the exception of a blip during the first coronavirus lockdown in 2020 when jobseekers could not look for work, artificially pushing unemployment down.

Meanwhile, INSEE expected inflation, which has surged worldwide this year on a jump in energy prices, to ease back only marginally from nearly 3% currently to 2.7% by mid-2022.

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Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Alex Richardson

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