Unemployment rate up to 3.5 percent

The number of unemployed has increased by 7 thousand per month on average over a period of three months, reaching a total number of 321 thousand in August 2019. This means 3.5 percent of the labour force (aged 15 to 74 years) were unemployed, up from 3.4 percent in July. The increase in unemployment was primarily in the age categories up to 45 years. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of new figures. At the end of August, the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) recorded 237 thousand current unemployment (WW) benefits.

In the same period, the number of people in paid employment increased by an average of 7 thousand per month as well, to 9.0 million in August. Around 4.1 million people did not have paid work in August for a variety of reasons. In addition to the unemployed mentioned earlier, 3.7 million people had not looked or/nor been immediately available for work recently. These people are not counted towards the labour force. Their number decreased by an average of 5 thousand per month over the previous three months.

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. In
August, there were 321 thousand unemployed. Equivalent to 3.5 percent of the labour force.

Unemployment and unemployment benefits (x 1,000)
   Unemployment indicator (ILO)
(15-74 yrs, seasonally adjusted)
WW benefits (15 yrs to pension entitlement age)
2011January430284
February 425280
March413270
April411261
May414256
June409252
July425254
August 427256
September442252
October458253
November474258
December473270
2012January486292
February 482299
March487296
April502292
May501291
June502291
July518298
August 517304
September530304
October539310
November554322
December572340
2013January589369
February 601377
March619380
April625380
May632378
June648382
July666395
August 670399
September675400
October680408
November677419
December687438
2014January691460
February 699460
March692454
April684443
May672436
June656431
July648437
August 637430
September630420
October632419
November635425
December643441
2015January645458
February 633455
March626443
April625427
May617416
June611410
July603420
August 604420
September609417
October616421
November596427
December588446
2016January574465
February 581469
March574470
April572461
May560448
June550438
July541432
August 521427
September510424
October502420
November499410
December482412
2017January480419
February 473416
March463415
April456401
May456386
June446372
July436364
August 426362
September422351
October404343
November397337
December395330
2018January380335
February 367330
March357327
April355314
May352301
June354288
July348279
August 353278
September343274
October337269
November326267
December329263
2019January329279
February 312274
March307268
April300257
May302251
June313243
July313234
August 321237

UWV: slight increase in unemployment benefits in August

At the end of August 2019, the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) provided 237 thousand unemployment (WW) benefits. This represents a year-on-year decline of 41.5 thousand, equivalent to 14.9 percent. Relative to July 2019, the number of current WW benefits was up by 1.1 percent (+2.7 thousand) in August.

UWV: summer peak in benefits for the education sector

The increased inflow in unemployment (WW) benefits was mainly from recipients with educational occupations. This is a recurrent phenomenon. Every year, the number of new WW benefits increases due to inflow from the education sector in the summer months. Temporary employment is terminated due to cessation of contracts and insufficient accrued leave to get paid all through the summer.
This summer peak applies especially to regions where shortages in the labour market are less severe.

Labour market at record level

In August 2019, there were 9.0 million people in paid employment, and 321 thousand unemployed. This adds up to a total of 71.2 percent of the 15 to 74-year-olds. The last time this gross labour force participation rate peaked was in March 2009 (71.0 percent). At the time, there were 8.4 million people in paid employment, and 342 thousand unemployed.

More and more over-45s in particular are active on the labour market. In March 2009, 56.7 percent were either working or seeking and available. In August 2019, this had gone up to 60.9 percent. The increase in the number of employed in this group was pronounced at 736 thousand.

For people under the age of 45, labour participation is lower. The gross labour participation rate among 15 to 24-year-olds stood at 70.9 percent in March 2009 versus 69.9 percent in August 2019. Among the 25 to 45 year-olds, the rate was 89.8 percent over ten years ago, versus 88.2 percent last month.

Employed and unemployed labour force participants (x 1,000)
AgePeriodEmployedUnemployed
15 to 24 yrsMar '091280132
Aug '191376103
25 to 44 yrsMar '093923106
Aug '193616110
45 to 74 yrsMar '093229103
Aug '193965109

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 (Q2 2019)<link naar kwartaalbericht>. The total unused labour potential stood at over 1.0 million in Q2 2019, versus 1.1 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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