Business down 5% in March compared with pre-crisis levels

According to the Banque de France's latest economic outlook, there will be no real upturn in activity in March, which is expected to be around 5% below its pre-crisis level. These forecasts are uncertain, however, and depend on developments in the health situation.

Business levels vary by sector

If, as theBanque de France study reveals, March will not be the month of the long-awaited recovery, the situation remains very different from one sector to another.

"For March, business leaders are expecting a slight increase in activity in industry and construction, and stability in services", explains the monthly business survey.

The accommodation and catering sectors are likely to remain at very low levels, due to the continuing restrictive measures. In personal services such as hairdressing, for example, activity is declining, but has almost, if not completely, returned to normal in the business services sector (management consulting, legal and accounting activities) and in publishing.

On the other hand, activity is expected to increase slightly in industry, particularly in chemicals, rubber and plastic products, and electrical equipment. Order books are filling up again in both industry and construction, although the level of orders in the building sector remains below pre-crisis levels.

Savings and consumption: the pillars of economic recovery

According to an Insee survey conducted in February 2021, almost as many households are afraid of losing their jobs as in June 2009, when this fear reached an all-time high.

The French say they're depressed: the uncertainty linked to the evolution of the health crisis, which seems to have no end in sight, the 6 p.m. curfew, the threat of local or national recontainment measures, all weigh on the population's morale, and do little to encourage consumption.

As a result, households are continuing to put money aside, despite accumulating 110 billion euros in savings in 2020. According to Banque de France economists, this savings surplus could reach the sum of 200 billion euros in 2 years, over 2020 and 2021.

However, economic recovery depends to a large extent on a resumption of consumption, which could be made possible by an improvement in the health situation and an acceleration of the vaccination campaign.