Unemployment below pre-crisis level

© CBS / Nikki van Toorn
In November, the unemployment rate dropped to 3.5 percent of the Dutch labour force. This was slightly below the level just before the onset of the crisis at the end of 2008. Unemployment declined over the previous three months, by 9 thousand per month on average to 326 thousand in November. These unemployed are defined as people who are not in paid employment and who indicated that they have recently looked and been immediately available for work. Between September and November, the number of people aged 15 to 74 in paid employment grew by an average of 20 thousand per month. There were nearly 8.9 million people in work last month. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of new figures.

Almost 4.1 million people did not have paid work for a variety of reasons. In addition to the unemployed mentioned earlier, there were nearly 3.8 million people who had not looked or/nor been immediately available for work recently. They are not included in the labour force. Their number dropped by an average of 6 thousand per month between September and November. At the end of November, the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) recorded 267 thousand current unemployment (WW) benefits.

Unemployment indicator

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 have been looking for paid work recently and who are immediately available. There were 326 thousand unemployed in November, equivalent to 3.5 percent of the labour force. The rate has now fallen below the level recorded right before the onset of the crisis at the end of 2008, when 3.6 percent of the labour force was unemployed.

Unemployment (ILO indicator, seasonally adjusted) and unemployment benefits (x 1,000)
   Unemployment indicator (ILO)
(15 to 74 yrs, seasonally adjusted)
Unemployment benefits (15 yrs to pension entitlement age)
2011January430284
February425280
March413270
April411261
May414256
June409252
July425254
August427256
September442252
October458253
November474258
December473270
2012January486292
February482299
March487296
April502292
May501291
June502291
July518298
August517304
September530304
October539310
November554322
December572340
2013January589369
February601377
March619380
April625380
May632378
June648382
July666395
August670399
September675400
October680408
November677419
December687438
2014January691460
February699460
March692454
April684443
May672436
June656431
July648437
August637430
September630420
October632419
November635425
December643441
2015January645458
February633455
March626443
April625427
May617416
June611410
July603420
August604420
September609417
October616421
November596427
December588446
2016January574465
February581469
March574470
April572461
May560448
June550438
July541432
August521427
September510424
October502420
November499410
December482412
2017January480419
February473416
March463415
April456401
May456386
June446372
July436364
August426362
September422351
October404343
November397337
December395330
2018January380335
February367330
March357327
April355314
May352301
June354288
July348279
August353278
September343274
October337269
November326267

UWV: Steady drop in number of unemployment benefits

At the end of November 2018, UWV provided 267 thousand current unemployment (WW) benefits. As a person may receive more than one WW benefit, the number of WW benefit recipients is slightly lower, namely 259 thousand. The number of WW benefits dropped by over 2 thousand (-0.9 percent) in November relative to the previous month. This represents a year-on-year decline by 70 thousand (-20.9 percent).

UWV: Declining inflow in all occupational classes and virtually all sectors

Unemployment inflow and outflow are especially dynamic: each month, tens of thousands of new benefits are granted and existing ones are terminated. From January up to and including November 2018, UWV provided 311 thousand new unemployment benefits, a decrease of 14.1 percent relative to the same period in 2017; inflow declined in all occupational classes relative to the first eleven months of last year. The percentage decrease was strongest among people with technical jobs (-20.6 percent) and those working in education (-20.5 percent). When looking at sectors, a substantial decline was mainly seen in financial services (-28.5 percent) and construction (-27.6 percent).

Labour participation at record high

Whilst unemployment has hit a record low, the labour participation rate has reached a new peak. At the onset of the crisis, 68.3 percent of the population were in employment. At 68.4 percent, the net labour participation rate was slightly higher in November; this the highest level since measurements began almost fifty years ago. Furthermore, not only is the number of employed rising, they are also working more hours per week.

Unused labour potential

Every month, CBS publishes figures on the size of the employed labour force and the non-employed population. The latter group comprises the unemployed labour force as well as people not included in the labour force (all these groups follow the ILO definition). However, the unemployed labour force does not represent all unused labour potential. According to the ILO indicator, this includes other groups of people aside from the unemployed. These people have either looked for work recently or are immediately available for work. They are counted towards unused labour potential but fall outside the scope of the ILO definition of employment. People who work part-time but want to work more hours and are immediately available are also included in the unused labour potential.

These groups are only reported on every quarter in terms of size and composition. The overall picture provided in the table below is based on the latest quarterly figures (Q3 2018). The total unused labour potential in Q3 2018 comprised nearly 1.1 million people. This was almost 1.3 million one year previously. Development of the total unused labour potential closely follows developments in unemployment according to the ILO definition.

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. Figures released by UWV do not correspond one-to-one with the labour force indicators.

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