Business confidence hits record high

© Hollandse Hoogte
Confidence among Dutch entrepreneurs in the private non-financial sector stood at 18.1 in Q1 2018, the highest level since measurement of business confidence started in 2008. The Dutch private sector is optimistic about employment levels despite encountering the obstacle of labour shortages. On balance, profitability improved among over 17 percent of Dutch enterprises. This is reported by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (KvK), the Economic Institute for Construction and Housing (EIB), the Dutch Organisation for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MKB-Nederland) and the Dutch Employers’ Organisation (VNO-NCW) on the basis of newly released figures in the Netherlands Business survey (COEN).

Business confidence, the indicator reflecting the mood in the Dutch private sector, is highest among construction companies, followed by wholesale traders and enterprises in business services. There is a positive mood across all sectors of industry, while confidence is higher compared to Q4 2017. Last month, CBS reported that confidence levels among manufacturers were even at their highest level since 1985, when monitoring in that sector began.

Business confidence in the Netherlands
 Business confidence
2008 IV-7
2009 I-24.3
2009 II-29.7
2009 III-23.5
2009 IV-13.5
2010 I-7.1
2010 II0.5
2010 III3.4
2010 IV6.1
2011 I7.2
2011 II10.1
2011 III3.2
2011 IV-4.4
2012 I-6.3
2012 II-6.8
2012 III-8.6
2012 IV-9.2
2013 I-10.7
2013 II-11.7
2013 III-8.7
2013 IV-2.7
2014 I1.6
2014 II4.7
2014 III2.9
2014 IV4.9
2015 I5.6
2015 II5.4
2015 III8.7
2015 IV7.4
2016 I9.3
2016 II8.8
2016 III7.9
2016 IV9.2
2017 I14.7
2017 II15.5
2017 III15.9
2017 IV13.4
2018 I18.1

More jobs

In Q4 2017, staff numbers were up on the previous quarter among 27 percent of all enterprises. The reverse was true for 10 percent, however. Furthermore, the outlook for the first few months of 2018 is also favourable; on balance, 16 percent of enterprises expect staff numbers to increase. At 35 percent, the share of enterprises expecting to hire more staff is largest in the construction sector.

A shortage of qualified personnel constitutes a growing obstacle to many companies. At the beginning of 2018, 18 percent of enterprises indicated that conducting business activities was hampered by a shortage of workers. This was the case for only 5 percent of enterprises at the start of 2016. The number of companies encountering such obstacles has grown continuously since then. Temporary employment agencies as well as IT service providers are encountering the greatest labour shortages at 58 and 42 percent respectively.

Labour shortage obstacles, Q1 2018 (% of enterprises)
 Shortage of labour
Private non-financial sector18.4
Information and communication31.4
Business services29.9
Car trade and repairs21.9
Transport and storage21.1
Construction18.3
Hotels and restaurants17.4
Manufacturing industry14.8
Rental and trade real estate13.5
Wholesale11.1
Retail trade8.7
Mining and quarrying3.8

Profitability has improved

For 26 percent of all enterprises, profitability increased in the last three months of 2017. The number of companies indicating improved profitability was higher than ever since measurement started in 2008. The number of companies which saw profitability decline was smaller than ever at 8 percent. There was improvement across nearly all sectors. The highest share with improved profitability was seen in the sector information and communication. This sector was followed by business services, wholesale traders and construction companies.

Profitability in the private non-financial sector (Balance % positive and negative answers)
 Profitability
'08 III-14
'08 IV-30
2009 I-38.2
2009 II-33.5
2009 III-21.9
2009 IV-10.7
2010 I-12.7
2010 II-0.8
2010 III-0.6
2010 IV3.2
2011 I-6.1
2011 II-2.9
2011 III-16.9
2011 IV-13.1
2012 I-20
2012 II-22.6
2012 III-24.5
2012 IV-18.6
2013 I-30.7
2013 II-15.5
2013 III-11.8
2013 IV-2.8
2014 I-5.8
2014 II-2.9
2014 III-4.5
2014 IV3.2
2015 I-2.9
2015 II7
2015 III3
2015 IV11.2
2016 I2.3
2016 II6.9
2016 III5.8
2016 IV15
2017 I7.8
2017 II11.3
2017 III9.4
2017 IV17.3

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