Economic outlook less negative

© Hollandse Hoogte / Flip Franssen
The economic situation according to the CBS Business Cycle Tracer has become less unfavourable in March. The Dutch economy is firmly in the recession stage. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports that, as of mid-March, 8 out of the 13 indicators in the Business Cycle Tracer are performing below their long-term trend. As of the reporting month of March, measures against the spread of coronavirus have had a major impact on many indicators of the Tracer.

The CBS Business Cycle Tracer is a tool used to monitor the state and the course of the Dutch economy and is based on 13 key macro-economic indicators. Together, these provide a coherent macro-economic picture based on CBS figures which are being published over the past month or quarter. It does not necessarily represent the situation at the level of of individual households, businesses or regions.

Business Cycle Tracer indicator (unweighted average of the indicators in the CBS Business Cycle Tracer)
YearMonthcycle (distance to the long-term trend (=0))
2013January-0.93
2013February-1.04
2013March-1.12
2013April-1.17
2013May-1.24
2013June-1.27
2013July-1.27
2013August-1.27
2013September-1.21
2013October-1.13
2013November-1.06
2013December-0.98
2014January-0.92
2014February-0.87
2014March-0.84
2014April-0.82
2014May-0.81
2014June-0.8
2014July-0.78
2014August-0.77
2014September-0.76
2014October-0.74
2014November-0.71
2014December-0.67
2015January-0.63
2015February-0.58
2015March-0.53
2015April-0.48
2015May-0.42
2015June-0.37
2015July-0.33
2015August-0.29
2015September-0.26
2015October-0.25
2015November-0.23
2015December-0.22
2016January-0.22
2016February-0.21
2016March-0.19
2016April-0.18
2016May-0.14
2016June-0.11
2016July-0.07
2016August-0.01
2016September0.03
2016October0.07
2016November0.12
2016December0.16
2017January0.2
2017February0.27
2017March0.32
2017April0.36
2017May0.43
2017June0.46
2017July0.49
2017August0.56
2017September0.6
2017October0.63
2017November0.7
2017December0.75
2018January0.8
2018February0.86
2018March0.9
2018April0.92
2018May0.95
2018June0.95
2018July0.97
2018August0.97
2018September0.97
2018October0.95
2018November0.95
2018December0.92
2019January0.86
2019February0.86
2019March0.82
2019April0.8
2019May0.78
2019June0.74
2019July0.77
2019August0.74
2019September0.71
2019October0.69
2019November0.68
2019December0.69
2020January0.69
2020February0.71
2020March0.66
2020April0.66
2020May-0.95
2020June-1.94
2020July-1.5
2020August-1.41
2020September-1.01
2020October-0.82
2020November-0.59
2020December-0.48
2021January-0.41
2021February-0.79
2021March-0.54

Confidence hardly changed among consumers, slightly down among producers

In March, confidence among Dutch consumers remains virtually the same as in the previous month. The mood among Dutch manufacturers deteriorated slightly in February 2021 but remained positive on balance.

Consumer and producer confidence (seasonally adjusted)
YearMonthConsumer confidence (average of the component questions)Producer confidence (average of the component questions)
2017January216
2017February227
2017March247.8
2017April268.3
2017May236.1
2017June237.2
2017July256.6
2017August265.4
2017September238.5
2017October238.2
2017November229.1
2017December258.9
2018January2410.3
2018February2310.9
2018March249.5
2018April258.2
2018May239.8
2018June237.7
2018July236.3
2018August215.9
2018September195.7
2018October155.9
2018November137.2
2018December97.5
2019January05.8
2019February-26.3
2019March-46.1
2019April-36.7
2019May-34.7
2019June03.3
2019July 23.9
2019August03.9
2019September-23.3
2019October-13.6
2019November-22.8
2019December-22.9
2020January-32.5
2020February-23.7
2020March-20.2
2020April-22-28.7
2020May-31-25.1
2020June-27-15.1
2020July-26-8.7
2020August-29-5.4
2020September-28-4.8
2020October-30-5.6
2020November-26-3.8
2020December-20-0.4
2021January-190.6
2021February-190.1
2021March-18

Exports up, household consumption and investments down

In January 2021, the total volume of goods exports (working day adjusted) was up by 3.6 percent year-on-year. This is the highest growth rate ever recorded in a span of twelve months. The increase was mainly seen in exports of machinery and chemical products.

The volume of investments in tangible fixed assets fell by 5.3 percent year-on-year in January 2021. This is in contrast with December, when the level of investments remained unchanged. The decline in January mainly concerned passenger cars, aircraft, buildings and infrastructure.

Consumers spent 13.5 percent less in January 2021 than in the same month last year, adjusted for shopping days. It was the second largest decline ever recorded; only in April 2020 was the decrease in consumption larger. Just as in the preceding months, consumers spent less on services. The closing of all non-essential stores as of 15 December 2020 also led to an exceptionally sharp drop in spending on durable goods.

Manufacturing output 0.6 percent up in January

In January 2021, the average daily output generated by the Dutch manufacturing industry was 0.6 percent up on January 2020. The increase is slightly higher than in December, when output was 0.2 percent higher than one year previously.

Again fewer bankruptcies in February

The number of corporate bankruptcies, adjusted for court session days, has decreased. There were 28 fewer bankruptcies in February than in the previous month. In February, the number of pronounced bankruptcies was at its lowest point since January 1991.

House prices over 10 percent higher in February

In February 2021, owner-occupied dwellings (excluding new constructions) were on average 10.4 percent more expensive than in the same month last year, representing the largest increase in nearly two decades. The price rise moderated in 2019 but picked up again in 2020.

Slight decrease in number of hours worked

In Q4 2020, the number of hours worked, adjusted for seasonal effects, was 1.2 percent lower than in Q3. After a considerable decline in Q2 (-5.4 percent), the number of hours worked rose again by 4.9 percent in Q3. In Q4, the number of hours worked by employees and self-employed people amounted to over 3.3 billion.

At the end of December, the number of unfilled vacancies had dropped to 210 thousand, 6 thousand less than one quarter previously, when the number of vacancies was up by 16 thousand after two consecutive quarters of decline. At the end of 2020, the number of unfilled vacancies was 76 thousand lower than at the end of 2019.

In February, there were 340 thousand unemployed. Just as in January, this is equivalent to 3.6 percent of the labour force. From December 2020 through February 2021, unemployment fell by an average of 13 thousand per month. Between March and August 2020, the unemployment rate rose from 2.9 to 4.6 percent. It then declined on a monthly basis up to January 2021 inclusive.

In Q4 2020, turnover at temporary employment agencies rose by 4.2 percent relative to the previous quarter. Year-on-year, turnover was down by 7.1 percent.

GDP (volume), seasonally adjusted
   index (2010=100)
2013Quarter 1100.1
2013Quarter 299.9
2013Quarter 3100.5
2013Quarter 4101.1
2014Quarter 1101.0
2014Quarter 2101.6
2014Quarter 3101.9
2014Quarter 4102.8
2015Quarter 1103.4
2015Quarter 2103.7
2015Quarter 3104.1
2015Quarter 4104.1
2016Quarter 1105.1
2016Quarter 2105.3
2016Quarter 3106.5
2016Quarter 4107.4
2017Quarter 1107.9
2017Quarter 2108.9
2017Quarter 3109.7
2017Quarter 4110.5
2018Quarter 1111.0
2018Quarter 2111.7
2018Quarter 3112.0
2018Quarter 4112.4
2019Quarter 1113.0
2019Quarter 2113.4
2019Quarter 3113.8
2019Quarter 4114.3
2020Quarter 1112.5
2020Quarter 2103.0
2020Quarter 3111.0
2020Quarter 4110.9

GDP contraction of 0.1 percent in Q4 2020

According to the second estimate conducted by CBS, gross domestic product (GDP) decreased by 0.1 percent in Q4 2020 relative to the previous quarter. This was mainly on account of declining household consumption. Relative Q4 2019, GDP contracted by 2.8 percent. Annual GDP contraction amounted to 3.7 percent.