The number of vacancies fell by 21 percent at the end of March compared to three months earlier. At the end of March 2020, there were 226,000 vacancies, more than 60,000 fewer than at the end of 2019, according to figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS).
It is the first time in seven years since the number of vacancies has fallen and it is also the largest drop in numbers ever recorded. There was a decline in all sectors. This is because they have been fulfilled or are due to expire. Many vacancies in particular were lost in the retail and catering industry. Most vacancies were filled in the trade.
Fewer unemployed, more jobs
The number of unemployed fell, as 23,000 new jobs were created in the first three months of this year. That growth was smaller than in previous quarters. Whether the job growth will continue is still open to question, says Statistics Netherlands.
The figures for jobs and unemployed people say little about the current state of the economy, because they are averages for the first quarter. And the economy was still performing very well in January and February. The corona measures that took effect in mid-March are therefore less visible than with the vacancy figures, because they concern the number of vacancies at the end of March, after the measures had already taken effect.
According to Statistics Netherlands, the decrease in the number of vacancies does not bode well. “The fact that there are fewer vacancies, of course, cannot mean anything other than that fewer new jobs will be created. Vacancies are always a bit ahead of the developments in the labor market, so the prospects are not good in that respect,” says Peter Hein van Mulligen , chief economist of Statistics Netherlands.
Statistics Netherlands will also publish figures for economic growth in the first quarter later today.
Not only the decrease in the number of vacancies indicates a recession, but also the sharp decline in business confidence. Van Mulligen: “A lot of entrepreneurs are very gloomy about the next quarter, they expect to have to fire people.” The statistical office has been measuring business confidence since the end of 2008, during the economic crisis. Entrepreneur confidence not only declined faster than ever in early 2020, it is also well below its low point during the financial crisis.
Entrepreneurs are negative in all industries, but there are major differences between them. Pessimism is greatest among catering entrepreneurs. Just like last quarter, entrepreneurs have the highest confidence in construction. However, the mood is also negative there. In nine of the twelve industries, the mood is at the lowest level ever recorded.
Not everywhere malaise
In retail too, business confidence fell to the lowest point since the start of the measurement. Despite low confidence, retail sales were 4 percent higher than in the same quarter a year earlier. This is partly because the food sector had a good first quarter. Supermarket sales rose strongly in March due to consumer hoarding behavior. It was 13 percent higher than a year earlier. The specialty stores also made more sales that month.
The first quarter was less good for the non-food sector, where turnover was 0.6 percent less than in the same period in 2019. In January and February, the sector still made a profit, but the large decline in March ultimately led to a negative result . Clothing and shoes in particular were sold less in the first three months of this year. But there were also branches that turnover more, such as the do-it-yourself branch, the drugstores and the sellers of consumer electronics.