Economy hit harder in most other EU countries

Some of the indirect effects that were produced by the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in the Netherlands already diminished during the summer. For example, the crime rate bounced back to its original level, as did the number of marriage and partnership registrations. At the other end of the scale, indicators such as household consumption and air passenger numbers are currently still far below their levels in previous years. The Dutch economy was dealt a severe blow in the first half of 2020, with the contraction that occurred over the second quarter the severest ever recorded. At the same time, this contraction was not as harsh as in many other European countries. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this today, on World Statistics Day.

The United Nations has declared 20 October World Statistics Day with the aim of promoting the use of statistics. World Statistics Day is held every five years; this time, it falls right in the middle of a pandemic. The usefulness of statistics requires no further explanation at this time. Policy-makers and citizens alike tend to follow the statistics closely. How many people have been infected? How many deaths have been caused so far by COVID-19? Such questions are on the minds of most people around the world practically every single day.

National Statistical Institutes (NSIs) such as CBS do not only collect data on their own country, but they also exchange their data on a global scale. They jointly determine the minimum number of statistics that must be compiled in each country and how to compile them. Mutual coordination takes place under umbrella organisations such as Eurostat, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the International Statistical Institute (ISI). Thanks to the joint efforts undertaken by the NSIs and the coordinating authorities, global organisations such as the WHO, Johns Hopkins University or the OECD are able to collect and present statistics from a large number of countries, as well as overall data for the whole world.

Throughout the current pandemic, the worldwide statistical community not just acts as an observer; it is also closely engaged in the fight against coronavirus and its negative direct and indirect impacts, hence striving for the rapid delivery of relevant and accurate data. Sometimes, this requires developing new methodologies; because the collection of data is impeded by a lockdown, or because a new or swifter exchange of information is needed. This concerns medical but also non-medical information. The virus itself as well as the measures taken against the virus have had major repercussions within the economy and society. CBS endeavours to compile the most accurate picture possible for the Netherlands, for example through its dashboard, Well-being in times of coronavirus.

At the moment, the Netherlands finds itself in another period of increased mortality on a weekly basis. This period coincides with the second wave of the coronavirus epidemic in the Netherlands. However, that increase stabilised in week 41, now a fortnight ago. The same was found to be the case among a part of the population that deserves extra attention, namely the people receiving long-term care including the elderly residing in nursing homes. In some respects, the impacts of the first pandemic wave that hit the Netherlands had already diminished. Marriage and partnership registrations, for instance, had returned to levels similar to previous years by August. The number of registered crimes also returned to its original level as of this summer, following a drop in the spring. The number of nights spent by Dutch guests in overnight accommodations was even above its usual level in July, although this was obviously the effect of the restrictions on cross-border travel - either imposed or self-imposed.

At the same time, however, we have barely booked recovery in air passenger transport, in domestic consumption and in unemployment. As we have entered a second stage of partial lockdown, there is additional concern about the state of the economy. Following the initial contraction in Q1, in Q2 the Dutch economy shrank by another 8.5 percent relative to the previous quarter. It was the highest rate of contraction ever recorded by CBS for the Netherlands.

Gross domestic product
   Finland (Q4 2019 = 100)Netherlands (Q4 2019 = 100)Germany (Q4 2019 = 100)Belgium (Q4 2019 = 100)France (Q4 2019 = 100)Spain (Q4 2019 = 100)
2017Q197.094.497.096.195.894.0
2017Q297.495.297.696.496.595.0
2017Q397.895.998.596.597.195.6
2017Q499.096.799.397.297.996.2
2018Q199.197.199.197.498.096.7
2018Q299.097.799.697.798.297.1
2018Q399.297.999.397.998.697.7
2018Q499.698.399.698.799.398.3
2019Q199.998.8100.298.899.898.8
2019Q2100.899.299.799.1100.099.2
2019Q3100.699.5100.099.5100.299.6
2019Q4100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0
2020Q198.698.598.096.594.194.8
2020Q294.390.188.584.881.177.9
Source: Eurostat. Adjusted for seasonal and calendar effects.

At the same time, the Dutch economy still appears to have remained relatively unscathed by the pandemic. In Q2, the German economy contracted by 9.7 percent; the Belgian economy by 12.1 and the French by 13.8 percent. Around the European Union, the hardest hit in Q2 was Spain with a contraction in GDP of 17.8 percent. The least severely hit country was Finland. That country, too, saw its economy shrink, by 4.4 percent. A graph depicting changes in the volume of GDP as of 2017 visualises the unique present situation. The ups and downs in quarterly growth and the differences between countries prior to 2020 are all negligible compared to what followed. The first two quarters of 2020 were marked by excessive contraction, albeit at different rates throughout the Union.

Household consumption
   Finland (Q4 2019 = 100)Netherlands (Q4 2019 = 100)Germany (Q4 2019 = 100)Belgium (Q4 2019 = 100)France (Q4 2019 = 100)Spain (Q4 2019 = 100)
2017Q197.696.393.996.696.896.3
2017Q297.496.695.197.297.297.2
2017Q397.897.295.897.297.998.0
2017Q498.397.995.597.298.098.2
2018Q199.398.197.198.098.498.6
2018Q2100.698.397.398.398.199.0
2018Q399.398.197.698.298.398.8
2018Q499.598.797.698.298.599.3
2019Q199.4100.098.298.299.099.7
2019Q2101.899.899.098.699.299.2
2019Q3101.9100.199.199.499.699.9
2019Q4100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0
2020Q198.197.897.193.993.892.1
2020Q291.888.586.683.182.570.3
Source: Eurostat. Adjusted for seasonal and calendar effects.

An important factor in this economic contraction is the sharp drop in consumption among households. In Q2, the volume of Dutch household consumption shrank by 10.8 percent relative to the previous quarter. Germany experienced a slightly less severe contraction of up to 9.5 percent, while Belgium and France recorded a slightly greater contraction at 11.5 and 12.0 percent respectively. Notably the highest rate of contraction - after Malta - was recorded in Spain at 23.7 percent. The lowest rates were recorded in Finland and Lithuania at 6.4 percent.

Unemployment
   Czech Rep. (% of the labour force)Germany (% of the labour force)Netherlands (% of the labour force)Belgium (% of the labour force)France (% of the labour force)Spain (% of the labour force)
2017Jan3.53.95.37.69.718.3
2017Feb3.43.95.37.89.618.2
2017Mar3.23.95.17.79.518.0
2017Apr3.33.85.17.49.517.6
2017May3.03.85.17.29.517.4
2017June2.93.84.97.19.517.1
2017July2.83.74.87.29.616.9
2017Aug2.73.74.77.29.616.8
2017Sep2.63.74.76.99.416.7
2017Oct2.53.74.56.79.216.7
2017Nov2.53.64.46.49.016.6
2017Dec2.43.64.46.29.016.5
2018Jan2.33.64.26.19.216.4
2018Feb2.53.54.16.19.216.2
2018Mar2.33.53.96.19.215.9
2018Apr2.23.43.96.39.115.7
2018May2.33.43.96.39.115.4
2018June2.33.43.96.19.015.2
2018July2.33.43.85.99.015.0
2018Aug2.43.43.95.79.014.9
2018Sep2.13.43.75.69.014.8
2018Oct2.03.33.75.88.914.6
2018Nov1.93.33.55.88.814.5
2018Dec2.13.33.65.78.814.4
2019Jan2.13.33.65.68.714.3
2019Feb2.03.33.45.58.714.2
2019Mar2.23.23.35.58.614.2
2019Apr2.03.13.35.58.514.2
2019May2.13.13.35.58.514.2
2019June1.83.03.45.48.514.2
2019July2.03.03.45.38.514.3
2019Aug1.93.03.55.28.514.3
2019Sep2.13.13.55.28.414.1
2019Oct2.03.13.55.28.314.0
2019Nov2.13.23.55.28.213.8
2019Dec2.03.33.25.28.213.7
2020Jan2.03.43.05.18.113.8
2020Feb2.03.62.95.07.713.6
2020Mar2.13.82.95.07.514.5
2020Apr2.24.03.45.17.815.3
2020May2.44.23.65.06.915.4
2020June2.74.34.35.06.615.8
2020July2.64.44.55.07.115.9
2020Aug2.74.44.65.17.516.2
Source: Eurostat. Seasonally adjusted.

Despite rising unemployment, the Netherlands’ unemployment rate is still low compared to the European average. In August, unemployment in the Netherlands amounted to 4.6 percent of the labour force (despite a slight drop in September). A handful of EU member states including Germany had lower unemployment in August. The lowest rate was recorded in the Czech Republic at 2.7 percent. By far the highest unemployment rate was found in Spain: 16.2 percent. Spain was already facing high unemployment, but the outbreak of the pandemic made it skyrocket. On a side note, unemployment may be even higher in Greece, but the data over August are not available yet.

Rising youth unemployment is a source of (international) concern. By August, the Netherlands’ youth unemployment rate had gone up to 11.3 percent. In Spain, however, youth unemployment was a staggering 43.9 percent.

Sources

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