This paper analyses trends in hours worked from South African household survey data for the period 1997 — 2011. The purpose of the paper is fourfold. First, the paper provides an overview on the trends in hours worked of formal sector employees, by various demographic and work characteristics. Second, the paper aims to establish how mean hours worked corresponded to the business cycle and third, the reliability of the Statistics South Africa hours worked data is assessed by comparing it with the data on hours working in the manufacturing sector by the Bureau of Economic Research (BER). Last, the newly derived hours worked variables are evaluated in terms of their usefulness as leading indicators, and how they can be used in productivity studies in the South African macroeconomic environment.