Business confidence in the Netherlands plunges to lowest ever level

Dutch business confidence has plunged to its lowest ever level, hitting -37 points in April, according to new figures from national statistics agency CBS.

The figures were collated before the government announced an easing of some of the lockdown measures on May 6. Nevertheless, the 43 point drop is the biggest ever recorded and takes the index below its level at the height of the financial crisis.

The index, which focuses on non-financial companies with at least five staff, has been on a downward trend since early 2018 when it reached 18.1, the CBS said. Companies in the hospitality industry are most pessimistic about the future, while the construction, retail and property rental sectors are most optimistic.

In total 69% of all firms expect the economic climate to worsen in the coming three months. Some 58% expect fewer orders and 54% that turnover will be hit.

The gloomy picture is reinforced by new figures showing a 21% drop in the number of job vacancies at the end of March, compared with the previous quarter.

There were 226,000 jobs on offer at the end of March, down 60,000 on the end of 2019. It is the first time in seven years that the number of jobs has fallen and the biggest drop in numbers ever recorded.

However, the figures say little about the current state of the economy because they do not cover the period before the impact of coronavirus was really felt, particularly on the hospitality sector and temporary staffing companies.

The CBS will publish new figures on first quarter economic growth later on Friday.

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