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
   Unemployment indicator (ILO)
(15-74 yrs, seasonally adjusted) (x 1,000)
WW benefits (15 yrs to pension entitlement age) (x 1,000)
2011January430284
2011February 425280
2011March413270
2011April411261
2011May414256
2011June409252
2011July425254
2011August 427256
2011September442252
2011October458253
2011November474258
2011December473270
2012January486292
2012February 482299
2012March487296
2012April502292
2012May501291
2012June502291
2012July518298
2012August 517304
2012September530304
2012October539310
2012November554322
2012December572340
2013January589369
2013February 601377
2013March619380
2013April625380
2013May632378
2013June648382
2013July666395
2013August 670399
2013September675400
2013October680408
2013November677419
2013December687438
2014January691460
2014February 699460
2014March692454
2014April684443
2014May672436
2014June656431
2014July648437
2014August 637430
2014September630420
2014October632419
2014November635425
2014December643441
2015January645458
2015February 633455
2015March626443
2015April625427
2015May617416
2015June611410
2015July603420
2015August 604420
2015September609417
2015October616421
2015November596427
2015December588446
2016January574465
2016February 581469
2016March574470
2016April572461
2016May560448
2016June550438
2016July541432
2016August 521427
2016September510424
2016October502420
2016November499410
2016December482412
2017January480419
2017February 473416
2017March463415
2017April456401
2017May456386
2017June446372
2017July436364
2017August 426362
2017September422351
2017October404343
2017November397337
2017December395330
2018January380335
2018February 367330
2018March357327
2018April355314
2018May352301
2018June354288
2018July348279
2018August 353278
2018September343274
2018October337269
2018November326267
2018December329263
2019January329279
2019February 312274
2019March307268
2019April300257
2019May302251
2019June313243
2019July313234
2019August 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
AgePeriodEmployed (x 1,000)Unemployed (x 1,000)
15 to 24 yrsMar '091280132
15 to 24 yrsAug '191376103
25 to 44 yrsMar '093923106
25 to 44 yrsAug '193616110
45 to 74 yrsMar '093229103
45 to 74 yrsAug '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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