These are the first labour force figures based on a new measurement method which brings unemployment and labour participation to higher levels than under the old method. In order to allow comparison over time, the figures for previous years have been recalculated.
In December, 3.8 million people aged 15 to 74 years did not have paid work for a variety of reasons. In addition to the unemployed, 3.4 million people were not looking and/or immediately available for work recently; they 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 slightly higher in December
In order to enable comparison of cyclical developments in the labour market across countries, the unemployment indicator of the International Labour Organization (ILO) is used as a measure. According to this indicator, the unemployed include 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. Between February and August 2020, the unemployment rate rose from 4.0 to 5.5 percent. This was followed by almost continuous decline, to 3.8 percent of the labour force (i.e. 369 thousand unemployed) in December last year; slightly higher than in November, when it was 3.7 percent.
More unemployed emerged with the new measurement method
Following a new EU regulation, CBS has adjusted the way it measures the labour force. From today onwards, CBS will publish labour force figures on the basis of the new measurement method. This method leads not only to more unemployed but also to more employed persons. Furthermore, it has resulted in greater divergence between the number of unemployed and the number of unemployment (WW) benefits. Under the new system, the unemployment rate in December stood at 3.8 percent. According to the old method this would have been 2.8 percent. According to both methods, unemployment fell substantially throughout 2021.
|Unemployment indicator (ILO)|
(15 to 74 yrs, seasonally adjusted) (x 1,000)
|WW benefits (15 yrs to pension entitlement age) (x 1,000)|
UWV: more WW benefits in December
From November to December 2021, the number of WW benefits increased by 2.5 thousand, ending at nearly 192 thousand by the end of December. The number of WW benefits tends to increase during the winter period in seasonally sensitive sectors. For example, in December the number of WW benefits rose by 25 percent in construction and by 15 percent in agriculture. An increase was also seen in accommodation, food and catering services (11 percent) and among employment agencies (9 percent). It is likely that the tightening of measures limiting contact between people as of late November 2021 plays a role here.
UWV: more WW benefits among people under 25 in particular
The number of current WW benefits mainly rose among young people (under the age of 25). Between end of November and end of December 2021, this age category saw an increase of almost 1.7 thousand benefits, representing a rise of nearly 25 percent. Young people relatively often work under temporary contracts and in sectors such as accommodation and food services and temping.
Unemployment continued to fall over the past three months
The further 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, 369 thousand people were unemployed. Unemployment stood at 399 thousand three months previously, in September. This represents a decline of 30 thousand over this period (10 thousand per month on average). As shown in the above diagram, unemployment may decline because unemployed people find a job or because they withdraw from the labour market. Conversely, there can be an inflow into unemployment from the active labour force and from the inactive labour force.
In the past three months, the inflow from the active labour force was smaller than the number of unemployed who found a job, as a result of which unemployment fell by 61 thousand on balance. The decline was mitigated by the fact that more people started seeking work without immediate result (from inactive labour force to unemployed) than stopped seeking and/or became unavailable (from unemployed to inactive labour force). On balance, there was an inflow of 31 thousand unemployed from the inactive labour force.
Development of unemployment during the coronavirus crisis
Unemployment rose rapidly due to the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis in March 2020. During the first phase of the crisis, April to July 2020 inclusive, unemployment growth was mainly due to a sharp increase in the number of employed who lost their job and a decrease in the number of unemployed who found a job. Unemployment continued to rise through August and September 2020, mainly because people who had not looked for work or were unavailable previously entered the labour market but did not find work immediately. As of October 2020, unemployment fell almost continuously, mainly due to another sharp rise in the number of people who found work.
|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)|
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.
Due to the measures taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, respondents could no longer be visited at home from mid-December onwards, and were therefore less likely to participate. The effect of this has been estimated based on models and therefore the accuracy of the December figures is slightly lower than normal.