Unemployment further down in December

In December 2020, there were 368 thousand unemployed, equivalent to 3.9 percent of the labour force. From October through December, unemployment declined by an average of 15 thousand per month. The number of employed grew by 24 thousand per month on average in this period. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of new labour force figures. At the end of December, the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) recorded 286 thousand current unemployment (WW) benefits.

From October to December, the size of the Dutch labour force (the active and unemployed labour force combined) increased by 10 thousand people monthly on average. This is mainly due to a sharp increase in the number of employed in October and November. In December, 4.1 million people aged 15 to 74 years did not have paid work for a variety of reasons. In addition to the unemployed, 3.8 million people were not looking and/or 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 past three months.

Unemployment declined in December

In order to enable comparison of cyclical movements in the labour market between countries, the unemployment indicator of the International Labour Organization (ILO) is often taken as a measure. According to this indicator, the ‘unemployed’ includes all persons who do not have paid work but who have been looking for paid work recently and who are immediately available. This covers the population aged 15 to 74 years. There were 368 thousand unemployed in December, equivalent to 3.9 percent of the labour force. In November, this was 4.0 percent (378 thousand). Between March and August, unemployment rose by over 150 thousand. Subsequently, it fell by nearly 60 thousand up through December.

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
2020April314292
2020May330301
2020June404301
2020July419301
2020August426292
2020September413278
2020October406278
2020November378276
2020December368286

UWV: More unemployment benefits in December

At the end of December 2020, UWV provided 286 thousand current unemployment (WW) benefits. This is over 9 thousand benefits more than in the previous month, an increase of 3 percent. In December, the number of WW benefits was up in the construction sector in particular (25 percent). This is customary for this time of year. More benefits were also seen in another seasonally sensitive sector, namely agriculture (14 percent). In addition, the number of WW benefits rose in the temporary employment sector (10 percent) and in the sector accommodation and food services and catering (10 percent). Accommodation and food services and temporary employment are two of the sectors severely affected by the measures limiting contact between people to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

UWV: Sharp increase in 2020 among young people

Compared to December 2019, the number of WW benefits increased by 28 percent. An increase was seen in all age categories. The number of WW benefits among young people under the age of 25 rose most substantially by far: from 9.1 thousand at the end of 2019 to 19.5 thousand at the end of 2020. This represents an increase of 114 percent.

Lower number of unemployed

The decline in the number of unemployed over the past three months is the result of underlying flows between the active, unemployed and inactive labour force. This is visualised in the diagram below.

In December, 368 thousand people were unemployed. This number stood at 413 thousand three months previously, in September. This means that unemployment declined by 45 thousand over this period (15 thousand per month on average). On the one hand, this was because there were more unemployed who found work (from unemployed to employed) than employed who lost their job and became unemployed (from employed to unemployed). On balance, this resulted in unemployment declining by 28 thousand over the past three months.

On the other hand, unemployment also declined because there were fewer people who started looking with no direct result (from inactive labour force to unemployed) than people who stopped looking and/or were not available (from unemployed to inactive labour force). On balance, this resulted in 17 thousand fewer unemployed persons.

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.