Last year, France experienced its strongest growth in more than five decades, reaching 7%, as the Eurozone's second-largest economy recovered from the COVID-19 crisis faster than projected, according to data released on Friday.

The strongest growth in a generation boosts President Emmanuel Macron's economic credentials less than three months before an April election in which he is largely expected to run for re-election.

The economy gained 0.7% in the final three months of the year, following a particularly strong third quarter when it grew 3.1%, according to a preliminary report from the INSEE statistics office.

The better-than-expected end to the year meant that the economy grew 7% in 2021 overall, the greatest since 1969, following an 8% contraction in 2020 when strict coronavirus lockdowns were in place.

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"The French economy has rebounded spectacularly, and the economic crisis has been eliminated," said Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire. "There are still some industries that are struggling, such as tourism and hotels, but the majority are rebounding very strongly and producing jobs."

According to INSEE, the economy returned to pre-crisis levels of activity in the third quarter as a vaccination campaign gained traction and the government relaxed COVID-19 restrictions.

Consumer spending rose 0.4% in the fourth quarter, down from an extraordinarily robust 5.6% increase in the previous quarter when the economy reopened after a lockdown. After increasing by only 0.1% in the previous three months, business investment increased by 0.8% in the fourth quarter.

Companies restocking depleted inventories also aided growth, with stock-building adding 0.4 percentage points in the fourth quarter following a 0.7% drag in the third.