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

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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