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

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
   15 to 24 yrs (x 1,000)25 to 44 yrs (x 1,000)45 to 74 yrs (x 1,000)
2008Jan119105108
2008Feb11796102
2008Mar11792103
2008Apr12291105
2008May12393104
2008June12197102
2008July1189998
2008Aug1179499
2008Sep11995101
2008Oct11797100
2008Nov1199996
2008Dec12110496
2009Jan12310697
2009Feb12710899
2009Mar132106103
2009Apr137119105
2009May141125102
2009June142127105
2009July147136108
2009Aug147140111
2009Sep151144113
2009Oct152145115
2009Nov155151117
2009Dec157153124
2010Jan159158127
2010Feb156158129
2010Mar155154131
2010Apr155147130
2010May154149131
2010June152148134
2010July150152136
2010Aug152146139
2010Sep150148135
2010Oct148145136
2010Nov147146137
2010Dec147145141
2011Jan141142147
2011Feb135145145
2011Mar127139147
2011Apr126139146
2011May124140150
2011June129138142
2011July134143148
2011Aug134148145
2011Sep142154146
2011Oct143164151
2011Nov149169156
2011Dec151167154
2012Jan156172158
2012Feb163162157
2012Mar161167158
2012Apr162176165
2012May158176167
2012June160178164
2012July159191167
2012Aug163186168
2012Sep170188172
2012Oct170193176
2012Nov170201183
2012Dec175208190
2013Jan177217195
2013Feb176223201
2013Mar178231210
2013Apr180233212
2013May178237217
2013June184241223
2013July192249225
2013Aug189251229
2013Sep196250230
2013Oct196251234
2013Nov195248234
2013Dec192253242
2014Jan188258245
2014Feb192261246
2014Mar186257248
2014Apr182250252
2014May178242251
2014June175234248
2014July175226247
2014Aug169222246
2014Sep164220246
2014Oct165223245
2014Nov164223248
2014Dec164224255
2015Jan164227254
2015Feb154225254
2015Mar152219255
2015Apr154219252
2015May156210250
2015June157203251
2015July159199245
2015Aug158199247
2015Sep161198250
2015Oct163198255
2015Nov156189251
2015Dec155185248
2016Jan155178242
2016Feb158182241
2016Mar159178236
2016Apr159176238
2016May158169233
2016June152170228
2016July152171217
2016Aug150164207
2016Sep149164197
2016Oct148155199
2016Nov146156198
2016Dec144148191
2017Jan139151190
2017Feb136145191
2017Mar135139189
2017Apr134136185
2017May128141187
2017June126136184
2017July126138172
2017Aug127135163
2017Sep123135164
2017Oct114128162
2017Nov112129156
2017Dec116121157
2018Jan108116156
2018Feb104110153
2018Mar100107150
2018Apr98107150
2018May100102150
2018June10499151
2018July10696147
2018Aug11296144
2018Sep10995139
2018Oct10598134
2018Nov10195130
2018Dec97100132
2019Jan96102132
2019Feb9597120
2019Mar9497117

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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