The authors use wave 1 of the NIDS dataset to describe salient features of the South African labour market across different stages of the life cycle. These include a high unemployment rate for all ages, particularly amongst the youth. Low levels of labour force participation in general are observed, and labour force withdrawal amongst the elderly occurs at relatively early ages. We use multivariate regressions to consider how education, family support structures, unearned income and health measures correlate with these patterns. Poor health is one reason that people of all ages in South Africa leave employment and the labour force. Retrenchment is the most frequent reason that people who are not employed report for why they left their most recent employment. Several important questions about labour market dynamics will become tractable once more waves of the dataset become available.