Paris (AFP) - The French economy turned in slightly firmer growth than expected last year, expanding by 0.3 percent, but undershot in the final quarter in a mixed message for the beleaguered government.
This was a stride ahead of the government's own estimate that the economy would limp into growth of just 0.1 percent in 2013.
It came as a small relief in the run-up to municipal elections.
President Francois Hollande welcomed "the new-found confidence of people in the economy" in France, government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem reported after a cabinet meeting.
"It is a good sign for the coming year," she quoted him as saying. "It is the right time to accelerate our public policies to support growth."
Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said in remarks on France 2 television that the latest official figures, although better than expected, meant that "more has to be done" to "get unemployment down".
The latest official figure for the year was just ahead of the national statistic institute's forecast in December of 0.2-percent growth.
But since then the INSEE institute had already slightly upgraded its estimates for growth in the first and third quarters, from shrinkage of 0.1 percent to zero.
However, in the last three months of the year, the economy showed growth of 0.3 percent, INSEE said in its first estimates.
That fell short of its forecast in December for expansion of 0.4 percent.
The government, faced with weak and unsteady recovery from recession, will be thankful for every extra drop of growth, as it struggles to engineer a change of policy to cut charges on businesses and to make deep cuts in public spending.
- Investment picks up-
Growth raises the prospects of job creation, although these figures are far too low to begin to dent record unemployment in the country, one reason why Francois Hollande, a Socialist, is suffering from the lowest approval ratings on recent record for a French president.
Growth also raises revenue from taxes which the Socialist-Green government urgently needs to help meet European Union rules for reducing the public deficit, along with fraught negotiations under way to cut deeply into public spending.
France has the eurozone's second-biggest economy.
The state of its finances is closely watched by its partners, in particular economic powerhouse Germany which reported growth of 0.4 percent for the last quarter on Friday, after 0.3 percent in the previous quarter.
Hollande has turned his sights on the economy in the hope of avoiding a heavy defeat in local elections next month.
A critical factor in French growth is household consumption, and this rose by 0.4 percent last year having fallen by the same amount in 2012.
However, a vital factor in recovery is investment, and in the fourth quarter this showed signs of getting going, rising by 0.6 percent after seven quarters of retreat.
In remarks to AFP, INSEE explained: "There is really a coincidence of three factors: investment has risen after two years of falls, consumption was robust at the end of the year, and exports rose in the fourth quarter."
Moscovici said: "I am not satisfied, and I say 'let's do more'."