Unemployment down to 3.3 percent in May

© Hollandse Hoogte / Peter Hilz
In May 2021, 309 thousand people were unemployed. This is 3.3 percent of the labour force. From March through May, unemployment declined by an average of 10 thousand per month. The number of employed declined as well over these months, by a monthly average of 4 thousand. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of new figures. At the end of May, the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) recorded nearly 250 thousand unemployment (WW) benefits.

In May, 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 increased by an average 13 thousand per month over the past three months, mainly because fewer people from the inactive labour force started working immediately. This number was lower than the number of people who left the labour force because they stopped working and did not look or were not available for work.

 

Unemployment rate further down in May

In order to enable comparison of cyclical movements in the labour market between countries, the unemployment indicator of the International Labour Organization (ILO) is 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 309 thousand unemployed in May, equivalent to 3.3 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* and unemployment benefits
yearmonthUnemployment 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
2021March326282
2021April316266
2021May309250
*The figures for April and May are provisional.

Number of unemployment benefits further down in May

At the end of May, UWV provided nearly 250 thousand current unemployment (WW) benefits. This is 16.8 thousand fewer than in the previous month (-6.3 percent). This is the fourth month in a row that the number of WW benefits has dropped. Compared to May last year, the number of current WW benefits was 17.1 percent lower. In May, far more WW benefits were terminated (36.6 thousand) than started (19.8 thousand).

Fewer WW benefits in all sectors

In May, the number of current WW benefits declined across all sectors compared to April. The sharpest declines were seen in agriculture (-11.2 percent), temporary employment (-10.9 percent), construction (-10.3 percent) and accommodation, food and catering services (-9.7 percent). Here, seasonal work plays a role as well as the relaxation of the coronavirus measures, which leads to a higher demand for staff again.

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 May, 309 thousand people were unemployed. This number stood at 340 thousand three months previously, in February. Unemployment declined by 31 thousand over this period (10 thousand per month on average). As shown in the above diagram, unemployment can decrease from two sides: net outflow into employment or net outflow into the inactive labour force.

Over the past three months, unemployment mainly declined due to the net outflow to employment: 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 29 thousand over the past three months.

In May, there were slightly fewer people who started seeking work with no direct result (from inactive labour force to unemployed) than unemployed who stopped seeking and/or were no longer available (from unemployed to inactive labour force). As a result of this net outflow to the inactive labour force, unemployment declined by 2 thousand over the past three months, on balance.

Developments since 2014

From May 2014 through March 2020, there was a continuous net outflow into employment. This changed in April 2020, when more unemployed were added on balance. As of September, the balance was negative again and more unemployed people flowed into the active labour force than vice versa.

In April and May 2021, the contribution to the development of unemployment by flows to and from the inactive labour force was relatively small. From November 2020 through March 2021, there was a relatively large net outflow to the inactive labour force. During that period, the decline in the unemployment rate was therefore not only due to the net outflow from unemployment to employment. Such a situation is quite exceptional and last occurred during the previous crisis, when unemployment peaked in 2014.

Unemployment development relative to 3 months previously and balance of employment inflow and outflow, seasonally adjusted*
yearmonthUnemployment development (x 1,000)Net inflow, from employed to unemployed (x 1,000)Net inflow, from inactive labour force to unemployed (x 1,000)
2014January1117-6
2014February2223-2
2014March520-15
2014April-78-15
2014May-27-5-22
2014June-36-16-20
2014July-36-23-14
2014August-35-28-7
2014September-26-270
2014October-16-3216
2014November-2-2726
2014December13-2236
2015January13-2336
2015February-2-2624
2015March-17-3316
2015April-20-3110
2015May-16-3317
2015June-15-3521
2015July-22-4119
2015August-13-3624
2015September-2-2827
2015October13-1933
2015November-8-2719
2015December-21-266
2016January-42-33-9
2016February-15-215
2016March-14-2410
2016April-2-2522
2016May-21-3817
2016June-24-4217
2016July-31-4311
2016August-39-455
2016September-40-401
2016October-39-423
2016November-22-3614
2016December-28-4013
2017January-22-3714
2017February-26-3812
2017March-19-3819
2017April-24-4319
2017May-17-4023
2017June-17-3719
2017July-20-3616
2017August-30-399
2017September-24-3712
2017October-32-419
2017November-29-4112
2017December-27-4317
2018January-24-3915
2018February-30-4415
2018March-38-5013
2018April-25-4319
2018May-15-4024
2018June-3-3633
2018July-7-3326
2018August1-3133
2018September-11-3624
2018October-11-3423
2018November-27-3913
2018December-14-3622
2019January-8-3325
2019February-14-3118
2019March-22-3311
2019April-29-312
2019May-10-2515
2019June6-1925
2019July13-1830
2019August19-1333
2019September10-2131
2019October10-1829
2019November3-2023
2019December-21-309
2020January-39-38-2
2020February-50-46-4
2020March-29-334
2020April3031-1
2020May5664-8
2020June1311239
2020July1053967
2020August96788
2020September9-3644
2020October-13-3017
2020November-48-34-14
2020December-45-28-17
2021January-69-39-30
2021February-38-28-9
2021March-42-28-13
2021April*-21-242
2021May*-31-29-2
*The figures for April and May are provisional.

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.