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AMSTERDAM, Nov 15 (Reuters) - The Dutch economy grew 2.4 percent year-on-year in the third quarter and unemployment fell sharply in welcome news for Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government, which trails the far-right Freedom Party four months before a parliamentary election.
Unemployment declined to 5.9 percent from 6.3 percent in the second quarter, the largest quarter-on-quarter decline in a decade, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) said.
The economy grew 0.7 percent from the previous quarter. That compares with a revised 0.7 percent growth in the second quarter of 2016, and 2.3 percent year on year. The agency described growth as “steady”, with 10 consecutive quarters of growth.
The economy is benefiting from a strong recovery in housing prices, which is boosting consumer confidence and spending, as well as a continuing large trade surplus.
“Apart from a dip in February and March of this year, the mood among consumers has been positive for almost two years,” CBS chief economist Peter Hein van Mulligen said.
He said consumer confidence, especially willingness to make major purchases, rose in October to its highest level since 2007. The housing boom was contributing to both declining unemployment and strong growth in investment, he said.
Campaigning for the March elections is due to begin shortly after the winter holidays, with most polls currently showing Rutte’s conservative VVD Party trailing the far-right Freedom party of populist lawmaker Geert Wilders. (Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)