Paris - Economic growth in Japan, Germany and Britain picked up strongly in the first quarter of the year, leading output in advanced countries, which slowed down overall, the latest Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data showed yesterday.

But the US economy flagged and France also turned in a lagging performance.

Over a full year, Britain led top economies, growing by 3.1 percent, far outpacing the OECD average.

Growth in the 34 advanced democracies covered by the OECD edged back to 0.4 percent in the quarter from 0.5 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.

The latest OECD-member quarterly data are in line with recent signals that the recovery from the financial and euro zone debt crisis is sluggish and fragile, although some countries are pulling firmly ahead.

In the 18-member euro zone, growth was low but steady at 0.2 percent, although in the 28-member EU growth slowed to 0.3 percent from 0.4 percent.

The OECD, a policy forum for its members, said its latest quarterly average “masks a wide spectrum of growth rates across countries”.

On a quarterly basis, growth of gross domestic product accelerated “strongly” in Japan to 1.5 percent from 1.0 percent in the previous quarter.

In Germany the growth rate doubled to 0.8 percent.

“The UK also showed strong growth of 0.8 percent, following a growth rate of 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter.”

In the US and France, the rate of growth was almost flat. In the previous quarter the US economy had grown by 0.7 percent and the French economy by 0.2 percent.

The Italian economy went into reverse in the first quarter, shrinking by 0.1 percent after growing by 0.1 percent in the previous quarter.

However, on a 12-month comparison, the OECD-area economy grew by 2.1 percent, and this showed a slight improvement from 2.0 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.

Meanwhile, an OECD survey showed that Germany has become the second-most popular destination for permanent migration, overtaking the UK and Canada, as the sovereign-debt crisis forced southern Europeans to leave home.

While the US still draws the most settlers, Germany jumped from eighth place in 2009 to second in 2012, with permanent migration rising 38 percent on the year, according to an OECD study entitled “Migration Policy Debates”, published yesterday. Germany attracted 400 000 permanent immigrants in 2012.

“Such a strong increase from one year to another has been rarely observed in any major OECD country,” Thomas Liebig, an author of the study, said. “We can speak about a boom of migration to Germany without exaggeration.”

Germany, with Europe’s oldest population, has adapted immigration policies since 2000 to attract more skilled labour. Additional reporting by Bloomberg