This paper constructs a ‘synthetic panel’ from successive years of the October Household Surveys and Labour Force Surveys, and shows that new insights into the South African labour market are revealed when groups of individuals, defined by their date of birth, are followed from 1995 to 2004. Three main features of the South African labour market post-95 are highlighted. First, the age at which young Africans become economically active, i.e. transit from school into the labour force, is continually declining. Second, this increasing supply of labour to the market is not being absorbed into employment resulting in a growing pool of unemployed youth. Third, the proportion of the population employed is extremely stable over the ten-year period for all ages. These findings have implications for the future focus of labour policy as rising unemployment is primarily a consequence of increased youth participation and not due to a decline in the availability of jobs.