In France, economists remain calm despite uncertainties related to the Omicron variant

The fifth wave of Covid-19 and the new Omicron variant? Not even afraid, seem to answer the economists, confident in the trajectory of the hexagonal economy. Growth in the fourth quarter, estimated at 0.5% by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) – after a solid increase of 3% in the third quarter – should settle well at this level, even, according to Patrick Artus, chief economist at Natixis, to reach 1%. This would make it possible to exceed the 7% growth mark for the year 2021, since the overhang at the end of the third quarter already stands at 6.6%. A figure higher than the mid-year forecast, which bet on 6.25% for 2021.

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“In France, there is for the moment no obstacle to the pursuit of growth”, argues Mr. Artus. All the lights are in the green: employment has caught up, and even exceeded, its pre-crisis level, the corporate margin rate is at its highest since 1949, demand remains robust. So robust that it causes recruitment difficulties – but “We do not see that this prevents companies from creating jobs”, recalls the expert – and increases in the prices of raw materials, in particular energy. But, according to Mr. Artus, on this subject, “We had the worst” in recent weeks: prices have started to fall again in maritime transport, those of semiconductors or gas have fallen back by 40% and the price of timber has returned to its pre-crisis level.

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“There are other elements that support growth”, adds Hélène Baudchon, economist at BNP Paribas, citing in particular business investment, also at a high level. ” What’s more, she adds, the policy mix (the combined effects of monetary policy and fiscal policy) remains very accommodating and we still have this accumulated savings mattress just waiting to be reinjected into the economy. “ If BNP Paribas economists do not rule out that growth in the fourth quarter is somewhat affected by the fifth wave, by losing a few tenths of a point, “The central scenario for 2022 remains that of high growth, of 4.2%”, indicates Mme Baudchon.

“Small” risk on supply and demand

The situation is that of a “Return of health uncertainty, which was believed to have been removed and which disturbs the game”, believes for his part Julien Pouget, head of the economic department at INSEE. Corn “In the absence of containment, containment measures are not likely to clearly hamper economic activity”, he points out, recalling that economic surveys are “Very favorable” : The business climate in industry improved in November and household confidence remained stable over the past month, according to indicators published at the end of the week by the Statistical Institute.

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