Unemployment rate stayed at 3.6% in February

© Hollandse Hoogte / Novum RegioFoto
In February, there were 340 thousand unemployed. Just as in January, this is equivalent to 3.6 percent of the labour force. From December through February, unemployment declined by an average of 13 thousand per month. In the same period, the number of people in paid employment grew by 16 thousand per month on average. The active labour force comprised 9.0 million people in February. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of new figures. At the end of February, the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) recorded 286 thousand current unemployment (WW) benefits.

In February, 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 3 thousand per month over the past three months.

 

Unemployment rate unchanged in February

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 recently and who are immediately available. This covers the population aged 15 to 74 years. There were 340 thousand unemployed in February, equivalent to 3.6 percent of the labour force. This is the same percentage as in January. Between March and August, the unemployment rate rose from 2.9 to 4.6 percent. It then declined on a monthly basis up to January inclusive.

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
2021January337289
2021February340286
*The unemployment figures for January and February 2021 are provisional.

UWV: slightly fewer unemployment benefits in February

At the end of February 2021, UWV provided 286 thousand current unemployment (WW) benefits, 2.5 thousand fewer than in the previous month (-0.9 percent). In February, 31.8 thousand new WW benefits were granted while 34.2 thousand benefits were terminated.

UWV: fewer long-term benefits since February 2020

In the span of one year, the number of current WW benefits increased by 45.9 thousand. Most people are on unemployment benefit for less than 6 months. In February 2021, this applied to 177 thousand benefits, against 145 thousand one year previously. This represents an increase of 21.8 percent. On the other hand, the number of WW benefits issued for twelve months or more has fallen (-7.9 percent): from 50 thousand benefits in February 2020 to 46 thousand in 2021.

The year-on-year increase since February 2020 also varies by age group; in the category up to 27 years, the number of current WW benefits is 67.3 percent up on twelve months previously; in the age group 27 to 49 years, the increase is 20.9 percent and in the group aged 50 years and over it is 9.0 percent.

Increase in labour participation

In February, the number of employed stood at 9.0 million, similar to the beginning of last year. These are people in paid employment or self-employment, regardless of the number of hours worked. Just before the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis, in March 2020, the active labour force had increased by nearly 900 thousand in six years. Between March and May, the number of people in work fell by 184 thousand and the labour participation rate dropped relatively sharply. Subsequently, it picked up again; in the age category 25-44 years, more people are working again compared to the previous year. Among the over-45s, labour participation is at the same level as last year. The largest decline was recorded among the young labour force; labour participation has not yet returned to the level of early 2020.

On average, unemployment declined over the past three months

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 February, 340 thousand people were unemployed. This number stood at 378 thousand three months previously, in November. This means that unemployment declined by 38 thousand over this period (13 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 9 thousand fewer unemployed persons. This balance has now been negative for four months in a row. The last time such a series occurred was in 2014.

More people in work

The active labour force grew by 49 thousand over the past three months. This was not only because the number of unemployed entering the labour market exceeded the number of people in work becoming unemployed (+28 thousand). There were also 194 thousand people who entered the labour market and found work immediately (from inactive to active labour force), while a smaller number of people (172 thousand) stopped working and left the labour market (from active to inactive labour force). As a result, the active labour force grew by another 22 thousand.

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.