In March, 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 rose by an average of 6 thousand per month over the past three months.
Unemployment rate lower in March
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 326 thousand unemployed in March, equivalent to 3.5 percent of the labour force. Between March and August 2020, the unemployment rate rose from 2.9 to 4.6 percent. After that, it declined almost continuously.
|Unemployment indicator (ILO)|
(15 to 74 yrs, seasonally adjusted) (x 1,000)
|WW benefits (15 yrs to pension entitlement age) (x 1,000)|
UWV: fewer current unemployment benefits in March
At the end of March 2021, UWV provided 282 thousand current unemployment (WW) benefits. The number of current benefits fell by 3.9 thousand (-1.4 percent) relative to February. Relative to one year previously, it was up by 12.7 percent. There were 250 thousand WW benefits at the end of March 2020, shortly after the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis.
UWV: fewer benefits paid to young people
The decline in the number of current WW benefits in March relative to February was largest among young people under the age of 27 (-6.7 percent). The number of benefits declined slightly in the age group 27 to 49 (-1.8 percent), while it remained fairly stable among people aged 50 and over (+0.5 percent).
Most sectors recorded fewer current WW benefits in March relative to February. The decrease was largest in agriculture (-6.3 percent). In the spring, employment rises in this seasonally sensitive sector. The number of WW benefits in accommodation, food and catering services also decreased above average (-4.6 percent), but was still nearly twice as high as one year previously. An increase in the number of benefits was recorded in the cleaning sector (+3.5 percent), in retail trade (+2.4 percent) and in the food, beverages and tobacco industry (+1.6 percent).
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 March, 326 thousand people were unemployed. This number stood at 368 thousand three months previously, in December. This means that unemployment declined by 42 thousand over this period (14 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 14 thousand fewer unemployed.
|Unemployment development (x 1,000)||Net inflow, from employed to unemployed (x 1,000)||Net inflow, from inactive labour force to unemployed (x 1,000)|
Increase in number of employed levelling off
The active labour force grew by 24 thousand over the past three months. This is the smallest increase in the past six months. The number of employed grew because there were more unemployed who found work than employed who lost their job and became unemployed (+28 thousand). On the other hand, there were fewer people (171 thousand) who entered the labour market and found work immediately (from inactive to active labour force). In March, this number was smaller than the number of people (177 thousand) who stopped working and left the labour market (from active to inactive labour force). As a result, the active labour force declined by 6 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.