Unemployment below pre-crisis level for the first time

In the period January through March 2019, the number of people aged 15 to 74 years in paid work grew by 16 thousand per month on average. There were over 8.9 million people in work in March. Unemployment declined by 7 thousand per month on average, ending at 307 thousand. These are people who did not have paid work and who indicated they had recently looked and had been immediately available for work. As a result, unemployment fell below the lowest point as recorded at the onset of the economic crisis in 2008. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of new figures.

Nearly 4.1 million people did not have paid work for a variety of reasons. Another group who were not in employment (nearly 3.8 million) had not looked recently and/or were not immediately available for work. These people are not counted towards the labour force. Their number decreased by 1 thousand per month on average over the first three months of the year. At the end of March, the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) recorded 268 thousand current unemployment (WW) benefits.

Unemployment indicator

In order to enable comparison of cyclical movements 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 307 thousand unemployed in March, equivalent to 3.3 percent of the labour force. At the end of 2018, this percentage was below the lowest pre-crisis level on record for the first time. It had dropped even further by March 2019.

Unemployment (ILO indicator, seasonally adjusted) and unemployment benefits (x 1,000)
   Unemployment indicator (ILO)
(15 to 74 yrs, seasonally adjusted)
WW benefits (15 yrs to pension entitlement age)
2011January430284
February425280
March413270
April 411261
May414256
June409252
July425254
August 427256
September442252
October458253
November474258
December473270
2012January486292
February482299
March487296
April 502292
May501291
June502291
July518298
August 517304
September530304
October539310
November554322
December572340
2013January589369
February601377
March619380
April 625380
May632378
June648382
July666395
August 670399
September675400
October680408
November677419
December687438
2014January691460
February699460
March692454
April 684443
May672436
June656431
July648437
August 637430
September630420
October632419
November635425
December643441
2015January645458
February633455
March626443
April 625427
May617416
June611410
July603420
August 604420
September609417
October616421
November596427
December588446
2016January574465
February581469
March574470
April 572461
May560448
June550438
July541432
August 521427
September510424
October502420
November499410
December482412
2017January480419
February473416
March463415
April 456401
May456386
June446372
July436364
August 426362
September422351
October404343
November397337
December395330
2018January380335
February367330
March357327
April 355314
May352301
June354288
July348279
August 353278
September343274
October337269
November326267
December329263
2019January329279
February312274
March307268

UWV: number of WW benefits continues to drop

At the end of March 2019, UWV was providing 268 thousand current unemployment (WW) benefits. This represents a decline of 2.2 percent on the previous month and 18.2 percent year-on-year. A benefit recipient may have more than one unemployment (WW) benefit. At the end of March 2019, there were 260 thousand people receiving at least one unemployment benefit. In this group, a share of 27.8 percent had been receiving WW benefits for more than twelve months.

UWV: decline mainly among 45 to 54-year-olds

The strongest decline in number of WW benefits was in the group of recipients aged 45 to 54 years. This group comprised 66 thousand recipients at the end of March 2019, i.e. 24 percent less than one year previously. Among people aged 55 and over, the number of WW benefits fell by 18.8 percent in the same period, ending at 94 thousand.

Different composition of unemployed labour force

At the onset of the economic crisis in 2008, there were 310 thousand unemployed. There were 307 thousand in March of this year. The unemployed of 2008 were mainly young people. Since April 2014, the over-45s have been in the majority. Unemployment among 15 to 24-year-olds has remained below the lowest pre-crisis level since the end of 2017. This is not the case for the groups of 25 to 44-year-olds and 45 to-74-year-olds. Among the over-45s, unemployment had its strongest decline in 2018.

Unemployed labour force (x 1,000)
   15 to 24 yrs25 to 44 yrs45 to 74 yrs
2008Jan119105108
Feb11796102
Mar11792103
Apr12291105
May12393104
June12197102
July1189998
Aug1179499
Sep11995101
Oct11797100
Nov1199996
Dec12110496
2009Jan12310697
Feb12710899
Mar132106103
Apr137119105
May141125102
June142127105
July147136108
Aug147140111
Sep151144113
Oct152145115
Nov155151117
Dec157153124
2010Jan159158127
Feb156158129
Mar155154131
Apr155147130
May154149131
June152148134
July150152136
Aug152146139
Sep150148135
Oct148145136
Nov147146137
Dec147145141
2011Jan141142147
Feb135145145
Mar127139147
Apr126139146
May124140150
June129138142
July134143148
Aug134148145
Sep142154146
Oct143164151
Nov149169156
Dec151167154
2012Jan156172158
Feb163162157
Mar161167158
Apr162176165
May158176167
June160178164
July159191167
Aug163186168
Sep170188172
Oct170193176
Nov170201183
Dec175208190
2013Jan177217195
Feb176223201
Mar178231210
Apr180233212
May178237217
June184241223
July192249225
Aug189251229
Sep196250230
Oct196251234
Nov195248234
Dec192253242
2014Jan188258245
Feb192261246
Mar186257248
Apr182250252
May178242251
June175234248
July175226247
Aug169222246
Sep164220246
Oct165223245
Nov164223248
Dec164224255
2015Jan164227254
Feb154225254
Mar152219255
Apr154219252
May156210250
June157203251
July159199245
Aug158199247
Sep161198250
Oct163198255
Nov156189251
Dec155185248
2016Jan155178242
Feb158182241
Mar159178236
Apr159176238
May158169233
June152170228
July152171217
Aug150164207
Sep149164197
Oct148155199
Nov146156198
Dec144148191
2017Jan139151190
Feb136145191
Mar135139189
Apr134136185
May128141187
June126136184
July126138172
Aug127135163
Sep123135164
Oct114128162
Nov112129156
Dec116121157
2018Jan108116156
Feb104110153
Mar100107150
Apr98107150
May100102150
June10499151
July10696147
Aug11296144
Sep10995139
Oct10598134
Nov10195130
Dec97100132
2019Jan96102132
Feb9597120
Mar9497117

Unused labour potential

Every month, CBS publishes figures on the total employed and non-employed population. The latter group comprises the unemployed labour force and people not included in the labour force (all according to the ILO definition).

However, the unemployed labour force does not cover the total unused labour potential precisely. Other groups are included, aside from the unemployed according to the ILO indicator. These are people who have either looked for work recently or are immediately available for work. They are counted towards the 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.

CBS reports on these groups quarterly in terms of their size and composition. The overall picture represented here (see figure below) is based on the latest quarterly figures (Q4 2018). The total unused labour potential in Q4 2018 comprised slightly more than 1.0 million people. This was over 1.2 million one year previously. Development of the total unused labour potential closely follows developments in unemployment according to the ILO definition.

Beroepsbevolking van 15 tot 75 jaar Niet-beroepsbevolking Niet gezocht en niet beschikbaar Wil en/of kan niet werken Wil wel werken Gezocht en niet beschikbaar Beschikbaar en niet gezocht Vanwege weinig resultaat Vanwege andere reden Beroepsbevolking Werkloos (ILO-definitie) Werkzaam Deeltijd Wil meer uren werken, beschikbaar Voltijd


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 are not directly comparable with the CBS labour force indicators.

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