The Netherlands' Central Bureau for Statistics says the country's unemployment is rising sharply, hitting 6.4 percent at the end of March up from 6.2 percent in February.

Local media Thursday had reported a much higher 8.1 percent figure, which would be a record — but a nonstandard definition of unemployment is used in their calculations.

The poor numbers are likely to spark national debate. Prime Minister Mark Rutte last week postponed austerity measures the independent national budget office says would be needed to bring the national deficit in 2014 below the 3 percent maximum mandated by European rules.

Rutte has been criticized for urging voters to be confident and spend, hoping that will lead to economic growth — and tax hikes and spending cuts won't be needed.