Access to new nationally representative, individual-level panel data from South Africa has allowed for the revalidation of Kingdon and Knight's discussion on the definition of unemployment. This paper investigates subjective well-being as a measure of comparison between labour-market statuses. It finds that on the grounds of subjective well-being the non-searching unemployed (or ‘discouraged’) are significantly worse-off than the not economically active. Moreover, evidence suggests that, with regard to the relationship between life satisfaction and labour-market status, the non-searching unemployed consistently are the worst-off. This is especially true of both the young and senior non-searching unemployed; however, the findings are largely driven by the African subsample. This paper does not advocate for a change in the official definition of unemployment but does advocate for the inclusion and recognition of the non-searching unemployed in policy relating to labour and development in South Africa.