Number of unemployed drops below 400 thousand

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In November, close to 8.7 million people in the Netherlands were in paid employment, the highest number ever recorded. The number of 15 to 74-year-olds in paid employment increased by 15 thousand per month on average in the previous quarter, according to figures released by Statistics Netherlands (CBS). Slightly over 4.2 million people did not have paid work for a variety of reasons. Among these people, 397 thousand indicated that they had looked for work recently and were also immediately available; these are the unemployed according to the definition used by the International Labour Organization (ILO). As a result, the total number of unemployed fell below 400 thousand for the first time since September 2009, having declined by an average 10 thousand per month over the past quarter.

The other people without work, nearly 3.9 million, had not been looking for work and/or were not available recently. Their number increased by an average of 1 thousand per month. The Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) reported a further decrease in unemployment (WW) benefits to a total of 337 thousand in November.

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Unemployment rate (ILO) down to 4.4 percent

In order to enable comparison of cyclical developments in the labour market between countries, the unemployment indicator of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) is often taken as a measure. According to this indicator, the ‘unemployed’ includes all 15 to 74-year-olds who do not have paid work but who are actively looking and immediately available for paid work. This number stood at 397 thousand in November, i.e. 4.4 percent of the labour force, down from 4.5 percent one month previously. In November 2008 - at the onset of the economic crisis - it stood at 3.6 percent.
The unemployment rate does not include all unemployed people who are willing to work. People who do want to work but who have not sought work and/or have been available recently for any particular reason, do not count towards ILO’s unemployment definition. By the same token, part-time workers who want to work more hours are not considered to be unemployed. CBS describes these groups on a quarterly basis, aside from quarterly reporting on the number of hours worked by people in paid employment. Monthly figures on people in paid employment (the active labour force) include all people in work, regardless of the number of hours worked.

UWV: Number of WW benefits continues to drop

In November 2017, the number of current unemployment (WW) benefits declined by more than 6 thousand to a total of 337 thousand benefits. The decline was seen across nearly all sectors; on the other hand, an increase was seen in the sectors agriculture and fisheries, hotels and restaurants, and cultural institutions. This increase was likely due to fewer jobs in these sectors during this particular season.
In the period January to November 2017, UWV provided 362 thousand new benefits: a decline of 18 percent compared to the same period in 2016. The year-on-year decline is seen in all occupations and sectors.

UWV: Sharp drop in the sectors construction and temporary employment

Relative to one year previously in November 2016, the number of unemployment benefits has declined by 17.7 percent. There was a relatively sharper decline in the sectors construction (-44 percent) and temporary employment (-28 percent). As economic growth returned the number of temporary agency workers also went up. A sharp drop was furthermore seen among occupations in construction, drivers and people working in the care sector.

Unused labour potential

Every month, CBS publishes figures on the size of the employed and unemployed labour force as well as the group not included in the labour force (ILO definition). However, the unemployed labour force does not include all unused labour potential. Other groups are part of the unused labour potential aside from the unemployed according to the ILO indicator. The size and composition of these groups are reported on every quarter. The overall picture described below is therefore based on the latest quarterly figures (Q3 2017). Developments in the total unused labour potential are closely linked with the developments in unemployment according to the ILO definition.

8.6 million employed in Q3 2017

In Q3 of this year, over 8.6 million people were in paid work as part of the total labour force (people aged 15 to 74 years, altogether 12.9 million). On average, 408 thousand among the labour force were unemployed (ILO unemployment indicator, not seasonally adjusted). These included 153 thousand people who had been looking for work for twelve months or more. Almost two in three long-term unemployed were at least 45 years old. Those in employment and the unemployed together comprise the Dutch labour force.

The other group - over 3.8 million-  were not included in the labour force. The majority of this group were not willing or able to work (3.2 million), for reasons such as education, care, illness or advanced age. In addition, there were 210 thousand people who were willing to work during Q3, but who had not been looking for work nor were available immediately. These include people who are in education or training. Finally, there is a group of people who were either looking (162 thousand) or immediately available (263 thousand).


Part-timer workers

Unused labour potential does not only comprise people without work. Among the 4.2 million people working part-time, 445 thousand were seeking more working hours in Q3, who were also immediately available for more hours.


Every month, CBS publishes figures on the labour force in accordance with international guidelines. The corresponding indicators, i.e. the employed and unemployed labour force, are used around the world to describe cyclical developments on the labour market. Monthly figures are essential in this respect. In addition, UWV issues its own monthly figures on unemployment benefits; however, these do not correspond with the indicators on the labour force.