Unemployment slightly up in December

A man at work at a control panel in a factory hall
© CBS / Alrik Swagerman
In December 2021, unemployment stood at 369 thousand. This is 3.8 percent of the labour force. The unemployment rate was slightly higher than in the previous month, when it was 3.7 percent. Unemployment did decline by an average of 10 thousand per month over the period October-December 2021. The number of people aged 15 to 74 years in employment grew by 25 thousand per month on average over the past three months, to 9.4 million. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of new labour force figures. At the end of December, the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) recorded 192 thousand current unemployment (WW) benefits.

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 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)
2012January595292
2012February586299
2012March593296
2012April618292
2012May609291
2012June609291
2012July623298
2012August620304
2012September634304
2012October644310
2012November655322
2012December676340
2013January692369
2013February707377
2013March728380
2013April734380
2013May747378
2013June766382
2013July782395
2013August783399
2013September783400
2013October782408
2013November772419
2013December779438
2014January786460
2014February800460
2014March794454
2014April787443
2014May775436
2014June757431
2014July746437
2014August738430
2014September733420
2014October738419
2014November742425
2014December753441
2015January760458
2015February747455
2015March745443
2015April743427
2015May732416
2015June725410
2015July708420
2015August708420
2015September712417
2015October722421
2015November703427
2015December695446
2016January680465
2016February688469
2016March680470
2016April679461
2016May668448
2016June656438
2016July648432
2016August628427
2016September617424
2016October609420
2016November607410
2016December590412
2017January588419
2017February582416
2017March571415
2017April563401
2017May564386
2017June555372
2017July544364
2017August534362
2017September529351
2017October511343
2017November504337
2017December503330
2018January487335
2018February474330
2018March465327
2018April463314
2018May460301
2018June463288
2018July458279
2018August463278
2018September451274
2018October444269
2018November433267
2018December437263
2019January437279
2019February419274
2019March416268
2019April409257
2019May411251
2019June423243
2019July424234
2019August432237
2019September432233
2019October432233
2019November434228
2019December409223
2020January390241
2020February383240
2020March388250
2020April427292
2020May439301
2020June513301
2020July532301
2020August533292
2020September519278
2020October509278
2020November485276
2020December476286
2021January448289
2021February450286
2021March439282
2021April427266
2021May419250
2021June405238
2021July393224
2021August406213
2021September399208
2021October382199
2021November359189
2021December369192

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 relative to 3 months previously and balance of employment inflow and outflow, seasonally adjusted
   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)
2018January-24-6440
2018February-30-6939
2018March-38-7638
2018April-24-6844
2018May-14-6349
2018June-2-6059
2018July-5-5752
2018August3-5559
2018September-12-6048
2018October-14-5945
2018November-30-6434
2018December-14-5945
2019January-7-5750
2019February-14-5541
2019March-21-5636
2019April-28-5426
2019May-8-4940
2019June7-4349
2019July15-4157
2019August21-3960
2019September9-4655
2019October8-4452
2019November2-4648
2019December-23-5532
2020January-42-6321
2020February-51-7018
2020March-21-5433
2020April37632
2020May563224
2020June1258342
2020July1051491
2020August94-18112
2020September6-6267
2020October-23-5937
2020November-48-5911
2020December-43-529
2021January-61-600
2021February-35-5218
2021March-37-5214
2021April-21-4726
2021May-31-5121
2021June-34-5522
2021July-34-6025
2021August-13-5239
2021September-6-4337
2021October-11-4434
2021November-47-6519
2021December-30-6131

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.