Long-term unemployment decreases for the first time since 2009

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Long-term unemployment in the Netherlands decreased in 2016 for the firs time since 2009, Statistics Netherlands announced on Monday. There was even a decline among older workers, though the decrease was less significant than among younger age groups.

After six years of increasing, the number of long-term unemployed people dropped to 216 thousand last year, compared to 259 thousand in 2015. Someone is considered long-term unemployed if he or she had no paid work for 12 months or longer, but is actively seeking work and readily available. For the age groups below 55-years, this decline already started in 2015. But for the age group 55 years and older, long term unemployment increased by 12 thousand to 88 thousand in 2015. Last year that number dropped to 81 thousand.

The decrease in long-term unemployment among older workers is positive, but labor economists are still hesitant about their optimism, the Volkskrant reports. The decrease does not automatically mean that older unemployed workers suddenly started finding work more easily. "Companies fired fewer elderly workers last year. But that does not mean that long-term unemployed find work more easily", Rob Witjes, head of labor market information at benefits agency UWV, said to the newspaper. Two thirds of unemployed older workers are still unemployed for more than 12 months. 

The figures from Statistics Netherlands do not say anything about how many long-term unemployed workers actually found a new job. The number could have decreased because unemployed older workers gave up looking for work, or are not currently available to start working. "Every extra day at home makes it more difficult to find work. That hasn't suddenly changed", Witjes said.