Economic situation improves marginally

According to Statistics Netherlands’ Business Cycle Tracer, the economic situation in February 2015 is slightly better than in January, but the economic recovery is still fragile. In the period summer 2013-spring 2014, the economy gradually picked up, but since then the recovery process has slowed down.

Statistics Netherlands’ Business Cycle Tracer is a tool used to monitor the economic situation and economic developments. The Business Cycle Tracer uses a selection of fifteen key macro-economic indicators, which – together – provide a coherent picture of the state of the economy during the past month or quarter.

Mood among consumers hardly changes, producer confidence marginally down

The mood among Dutch consumers hardly changed in February. In manufacturing industry, on the other hand, producer confidence decreased marginally for the second month in a row. Producers were less positive about their order books and also about their future output, but they were more optimistic about their stocks of finished products than in the previous month. Producer and consumer confidence are above their long-term average.

Exports and household consumption up, investments down

The export of goods is steadily growing. The volume of exports of goods was up by nearly 7 percent in December 2014 compared to December 2013. Exports of Dutch products and re-exports contributed to the growth.

Dutch companies exported more transport vehicles (e.g. passenger cars), machinery and equipment, metal (products) and chemical products at the end of December. Food exports also grew. 

Consumer spending on goods and services was 0.5 percent up in December 2014 from December 2013. Dutch Consumers spent more on natural gas and services, like public transport and they spent more in restaurants, hairdressers, on telephone services and insurance premiums. Just as in the preceding months, consumers also bought more bicycles, because an arrangement to the effect that employers make a financial contribution, if employees purchase a bicycle to travel between home and work, was abolished in 2015.

In December 2014, car sales slumped relative to December 2013, when car sales peaked due to the fact that a favourable tax law expired on 1 January 2014. 

Investments in tangible fixed assets were 2.8 percent lower in December 2014 than in December 2013. The decrease is mainly caused by lower investments in road transport, e.g. (articulated)lorries, passenger cars and other types of road transport. In road transport, the decline is predominantly due to new European emission standards, which took effect in January 2014.

Passenger car sales were affected by tax measures on 1 January 2014, which affect the tax on passenger cars and motorcycles (BPM) and the additional tax liability for company cars. Therefore, many companies decided to buy new cars prior to 1 January 2014. Investments in machinery, residential property and infrastructural projects, on the other hand, were higher than in December 2013.

Manufacturing output below level last year

The average daily output generated by Dutch manufacturing industry was 2.8 percent lower in December 2014 than in December 2013. In the past months, the growth figure was affected downwards, because a considerable part of the productive capacity of the tobacco industry was lost.

Situation on the labour market improves further

The labour market recovered further in the fourth quarter of 2014. There was an increase in the number of jobs, in particular temp jobs and self-employed jobs, but employment in the sector health care and welfare declined further. The number of job vacancies also continued to rise.

The total number of hours worked in temp jobs has grown since the beginning of 2013. In the fourth quarter of 2014, the number of long-term temporary employment contracts (e.g. secondment or payrolling) and the number of short-term contracts increased.
The number of businesses and institutions declared bankrupt fell substantially after a peak in mid-2013, but the number of corporate bankruptcies is still relatively high compared to the pre-recession period. 

Unemployment rose marginally in January. In the age category 15-74, 645 thousand people were looking for paid jobs, i.e. 7.2 percent of the Dutch labour force. In the past four months, the number of job seekers has risen. Part of them do not immediately find work. As a result, unemployment will rise. In the period March-September, unemployment had fallen substantally.

Economic growth across all sectors

The first figures on economic growth show that the Dutch economy grew 0.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014 compared to the third quarter. The growth is recorded across all sectors. Household consumption, exports and investments all made a positive contribution.
The year 2014 has shown three consecutive quarters of economic growth, but the Dutch economy is still 2 percent below the level recorded during the economic boom in the first six months of 2008. In quarter-on-quarter growth figures, seasonal and calendar effects have been taken into account.

Dutch economic growth was 1.0 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the fourth quarter of 2013. The growth was mainly based on higher exports, higher investments and a higher household consumption level. Government consumption was slightly below the level of last year.

More figures can be found in the Business cycle dossier.

For more information on economic indicators, see the Economic Monitor.