Economic situation improves marginally again

According to Statistics Netherlands’ Business Cycle Tracer, the economic situation has improved marginally in March 2015 relative to February. Last month, the economy also improved, but the recovery process is going slowly. In the period summer 2013-spring 2014, the economy gradually picked up, but since then the recovery process is happening step by step.

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.

Business cycle tracer indicator (unweighted average of the 15 indicators in the Business Cycle Tracer)

Consumer confidence positive for the first time in 7.5 years

For the first time since the summer of 2007, the mood among Dutch consumers is positive. The consumer confidence indicator rose from - 7 in February to + 2 in March. Consumers are particularly positive about the economic climate. Their willingness-to-buy improved marginally in March.

The mood among Dutch manufacturers, however, deteriorated for the third month in a row, because Dutch manufacturers were more negative about their future output, but they were more positive about their order books and stocks of finished products. Producer and consumer confidence are both above the level of their long-term average.

Consumer and producer confidence (seasonally adjusted)

Exports, investments and household consumption up

The export of goods is still growing. The volume of exports of goods was more than 10 percent up in January 2015 from January 2014. This was the highest growth since 2011. Exports of petroleum derivatives, machinery and equipment grew rapidly in January. Exports of Dutch products and re-exports were higher than one year previously.

After several months of decline, investments were up again in January. The volume of investments in tangible fixed assets was 5.1 percent higher in January 2015 than in January 2014. Investments increased in nearly all investment categories compared to one year previously. Investments in transport equipment, e.g. (articulated) lorries rose noticeably.

Dutch consumer spending on goods and services was 1.8 percent up in January 2015 from January 2014. This was the most substantial increase in four years. Consumers spent more on electronic equipment, home furnishing articles and cars. They also used more natural gas compared to January 2014.

Manufacturing output below level last year

The average daily output generated by Dutch manufacturing industry was 1.5 percent lower in January 2015 than in January 2014. Production growth was affected downwards by a major closedown in the tobacco industry.

Situation on the labour market improves further

In February, unemployment declined; 633 thousand people in the Netherlands were unemployed, i.e. 12 thousand down from one month previously. Fewer people were active on the labour market in February; the number of employed was about the same as in January. The unemployment rate fell from 7.2 percent in January to 7.1 percent in February. Unemployment has been fairly stable since the third quarter of 2014.

The number of bankruptcies of businesses and institutions has hardly changed in February relative to January. After a peak in mid-2013, the number of businesses and institutions declared bankrupt has fallen substantially, but the number of corporate bankruptcies is still high compared to the pre-recession period.

The labour market recovered further in the fourth quarter of 2014. The number of jobs grew, in particular temp jobs and self-employed jobs, but employment in the sector health care and welfare fell 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.

Gross Domestic Product (volume, seasonally adjusted)

Economic growth across all sectors

The second estimate of economic growth shows that the Dutch economy has grown by 0.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014 relative to the third quarter. The growth is recorded across all sectors. Household consumption, exports and investments all made a positive contribution to economic growth.

The year 2014 has shown three consecutive quarters of economic growth, but the Dutch economy is still 1.4 percent below the level recorded during the period of 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 1.4 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the same period in 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.