Unemployment below pre-crisis level for the first time
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.
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 indicator (ILO)|
(15 to 74 yrs, seasonally adjusted) (x 1,000)
|WW benefits (15 yrs to pension entitlement age) (x 1,000)|
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.
|15 to 24 yrs (x 1,000)||25 to 44 yrs (x 1,000)||45 to 74 yrs (x 1,000)|
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.
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.
- Video - Unemployment
- Dossier - Business cycle