Fewer employed in March

© Hollandse Hoogte / Richard Brocken
The percentage share of people aged 15 to 74 years in paid work dropped to 69.1 in March. This is the sharpest decline in six years. Labour participation still peaked at 69.3 percent in January and February. Despite the decline in March, employment still grew by an average 4 thousand per month over the previous three months (January through March). At the end of March, the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) recorded 250 thousand current unemployment (WW) benefits, an increase of 10 thousand on the previous month.

By no means every employed person who stopped working became an unemployed. In March, relatively many stopped working but were not looking and/or immediately available again. As a result, the unemployment rate in March remained the same at 2.9 percent. Over the previous three months, unemployment declined by 10 thousand per month on average, due to substantial decreases in January and February. This is reported by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) on the basis of newly released figures.

In March, there were 9.0 million people in work. Altogether 4.0 million people were not in paid work for various reasons. In addition to the 273 thousand unemployed, 3.8 million people had not looked or/nor were immediately available for work recently. These people are not counted towards the labour force. Their number rose by an average of 11 thousand per month over the previous three months. It is very likely that this decrease is related to the government measures taken in March against the spread of coronavirus.

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 273 thousand unemployed in March, equivalent to 2.9 percent of the labour force. This is the same percentage as in February.

The unemployment rate shows how many people have looked for work recently and are immediately available for work. In order to describe developments in the labour supply, other indicators are also important, such as the number of WW benefits and changes in the labour market (job gains and job losses), which possibly show changes faster.

Unemployment 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)
2012January486292
2012February482299
2012March487296
2012April502292
2012May501291
2012June502291
2012July518298
2012August517304
2012September530304
2012October539310
2012November554322
2012December572340
2013January589369
2013February601377
2013March619380
2013April625380
2013May632378
2013June648382
2013July666395
2013August670399
2013September675400
2013October680408
2013November677419
2013December687438
2014January691460
2014February699460
2014March692454
2014April684443
2014May672436
2014June656431
2014July648437
2014August637430
2014September630420
2014October632419
2014November635425
2014December643441
2015January645458
2015February633455
2015March626443
2015April625427
2015May617416
2015June611410
2015July603420
2015August604420
2015September609417
2015October616421
2015November596427
2015December588446
2016January574465
2016February581469
2016March574470
2016April572461
2016May560448
2016June550438
2016July541432
2016August521427
2016September510424
2016October502420
2016November499410
2016December482412
2017January480419
2017February473416
2017March463415
2017April456401
2017May456386
2017June446372
2017July436364
2017August426362
2017September422351
2017October404343
2017November397337
2017December395330
2018January380335
2018February367330
2018March357327
2018April355314
2018May352301
2018June354288
2018July348279
2018August353278
2018September343274
2018October337269
2018November326267
2018December329263
2019January329279
2019February312274
2019March307268
2019April300257
2019May302251
2019June313243
2019July313234
2019August321237
2019September323233
2019October323233
2019November324228
2019December302223
2020January284241
2020February274240
2020March273250

UWV: Number of WW benefits up in March

At the end of March, UWV recorded 250 thousand current WW benefits. This is 10 thousand more than in February (+4.3 percent). Year-on-year, the number of WW benefits was down by 6.5 percent.

UWV: Substantial increase in new WW benefits

In March, there was a sharp increase in the number of WW benefits compared to February. UWV provided 38 thousand new WW benefits that month. This is 11 thousand more than in February, i.e. an increase of 42.3 percent. The number of new WW benefits rose substantially among young people (under the age of 25) in particular (+185 percent). In March, the majority of sectors recorded an increase in new WW benefits compared to February. An above-average increase was seen in accommodation and food services (+224 percent), temporary employment (+143 percent) and culture (+94 percent). The accommodation and food services sector and culture sector are severely affected by the measures taken by government against the spread of coronavirus.

More job losses

In March, 283 thousand people were out of work who were still in paid work last December (three months previously). This means there were more job losses in March than over January and February, when this number was still 259 thousand. The increase in job losses was mainly due to a higher outflow of people from the employed labour force to the non-labour force. These people were not looking or/nor immediately available for work. Among those losing their jobs in March, 222 thousand entered the non-labour force while 61 thousand became unemployed and were therefore both looking and available for work.

Job losses
   From employment to unemployment (x 1,000)From employment to non-labour force (x 1,000)
2012January118177
2012February114187
2012March121195
2012April120186
2012May115179
2012June110173
2012July113178
2012August113171
2012September117171
2012October112166
2012November123182
2012December130181
2013January135185
2013February141178
2013March138174
2013April136172
2013May135173
2013June130174
2013July135167
2013August132168
2013September132159
2013October126155
2013November125166
2013December133189
2014January145193
2014February149193
2014March145186
2014April130182
2014May122176
2014June119174
2014July113169
2014August110174
2014September106174
2014October102174
2014November106172
2014December106173
2015January108182
2015February107179
2015March106184
2015April110187
2015May103177
2015June103176
2015July99190
2015August105195
2015September106195
2015October110187
2015November103193
2015December100182
2016January97179
2016February103174
2016March95178
2016April94168
2016May91177
2016June89183
2016July89184
2016August86180
2016September87182
2016October82186
2016November84191
2016December82188
2017January83181
2017February85186
2017March82183
2017April77190
2017May79188
2017June81190
2017July80184
2017August78182
2017September77181
2017October74194
2017November72192
2017December66200
2018January66193
2018February62196
2018March57187
2018April62195
2018May61190
2018June64194
2018July62191
2018August61185
2018September59190
2018October60193
2018November57198
2018December62204
2019January64194
2019February64197
2019March65191
2019April67198
2019May70197
2019June73201
2019July70196
2019August69195
2019September67203
2019October68198
2019November69202
2019December62201
2020January59200
2020February56203
2020March61222

Unused labour potential

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

However, the unemployed labour force does not represent the total unused labour potential. According to the ILO indicator, this includes other groups of people aside from the unemployed. These people 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.

These groups are only reported on every quarter in terms of the size and composition. The overall picture provided in the table below is based on the latest quarterly figures (Q4 2019). The total unused labour potential in Q4 2019 comprised 982 thousand people, 57 thousand less than one year previously. Development of the total unused labour potential closely follows developments in unemployment.

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 do not correspond one-to-one with the labour force indicators.

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