BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Euro zone economic growth slowed as expected in the last three months of 2019 as gross domestic product shrank in France and Italy against the previous quarter, but employment growth picked up more than expected, official estimates showed on Friday.
The European Union's statistics office Eurostat said GDP in the 19 countries sharing the euro expanded 0.1% quarter-on-quarter in the October-December period, as announced on Jan 31, for a 0.9% year-on-year gain - a downward revision from the previously estimated 1.0% growth.
The quarterly growth rate slowed compared to the 0.3% expansion in the third quarter because of a 0.1% contraction in the second biggest economy France and a 0.3% contraction in the third biggest Italy.
Growth Germany, the biggest euro zone economy, stagnated.
Eurostat also said that euro zone employment rose 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in the last three months of 2019 for a 1.0% year-on-year gain. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a 0.1% quarterly rise and a 0.8% annual increase.
Separately, Eurostat said the euro zone's trade surplus with the rest of the world was 23.1 billion euros(£19.22 billion) in December, up from 16.3 billion a year earlier, bringing the total for the whole of 2019 to 225.7 billion, up from 194.6 billion in 2018.
Adjusted for seasonal factors, the trade surplus was 22.2 billion in December, up from 19.1 billion in November as exports rose 0.9% on the month and imports fell 0.7%.
(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski)