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Direct Labor Cost vs. Indirect Labor Cost: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 7, 2024
Direct Labor Cost is the wages paid to workers directly involved in producing goods or providing services. Indirect Labor Cost is wages paid to workers who support the production process but are not directly involved in creating the product or service.

Key Differences

Direct labor costs are directly associated with the manufacture of specific goods or the provision of services, such as wages for assembly line workers. Indirect labor costs, however, are associated with personnel who do not directly contribute to the production of these goods or services, like salaries for factory supervisors.
Direct labor cost is often variable, changing with the level of production output. For instance, more products made would typically mean higher direct labor costs. In contrast, indirect labor costs are often fixed, as support roles like maintenance staff are needed regardless of production levels.
Calculating direct labor cost is generally straightforward, focusing on wages paid for direct production work. Conversely, indirect labor costs can be more complex to calculate, involving salaries of employees in various support roles that do not directly add to the final product.
In product costing, direct labor cost is easily traced to individual products, making it a key factor in pricing strategies. Indirect labor costs, however, are allocated across all products and can be harder to attribute to a single product or service.
Examples of direct labor cost include wages for a carpenter in a furniture factory, whereas examples of indirect labor cost include salaries of the factory's HR staff, who handle administrative tasks but are not involved in furniture making.

Comparison Chart

Association with Production

Directly involved in production
Support production process


Often variable with production levels
Often fixed, regardless of production levels


Straightforward, based on direct work wages
More complex, involves various support roles

Cost Tracing

Easily traced to specific products
Allocated across all products

Example Roles

Assembly line workers, craftsmen
Supervisors, maintenance, administrative staff

Direct Labor Cost and Indirect Labor Cost Definitions

Direct Labor Cost

Labor costs that are directly accountable for the creation of a product.
The direct labor cost for the electronics manufacturer includes the technicians' salaries.

Indirect Labor Cost

Wages for employees who support the production environment.
The company's indirect labor cost includes the salaries of the logistics and warehouse staff.

Direct Labor Cost

Direct expenses incurred for employees who physically convert raw material into finished products.
The direct labor cost in the furniture workshop includes the carpenters' wages.

Indirect Labor Cost

The cost of labor not directly involved in the manufacturing of products.
In the construction company, indirect labor cost encompasses the project managers' salaries.

Direct Labor Cost

The portion of labor costs that is directly tied to the manufacturing process.
Direct labor cost in the garment factory is the wages paid to the sewing machine operators.

Indirect Labor Cost

Labor costs for roles that do not directly contribute to the final product.
The indirect labor cost in the software company includes the wages of the administrative assistants.

Direct Labor Cost

Wages paid to workers directly involved in production.
The direct labor cost for the car factory includes the wages of the assembly line workers.

Indirect Labor Cost

Wages paid to workers who assist in or facilitate the production process.
The indirect labor cost in the factory includes the salaries of the quality control inspectors.

Direct Labor Cost

The cost of labor that can be directly attributed to the production of goods.
In the bakery, the direct labor cost comprises the bakers' salaries.

Indirect Labor Cost

Labor expenses not directly tied to the creation of goods or services.
The indirect labor cost at the plant includes the maintenance team's wages.


What is an example of indirect labor cost?

Salaries of factory supervisors or maintenance staff.

What is direct labor cost?

The wages paid to workers directly involved in producing goods or services.

Why is direct labor cost important in costing?

It directly impacts the cost of goods sold and pricing strategies.

Can direct labor cost include overtime pay?

Yes, if the overtime is directly related to production.

Are indirect labor costs part of overhead?

Yes, they are considered a component of overhead expenses.

Can indirect labor cost change with production levels?

Typically, it remains fixed regardless of production levels.

Are benefits included in direct labor cost?

Only if directly related to the production process.

What is indirect labor cost?

Wages for workers who support production but don’t directly create the product.

How is direct labor cost calculated?

By totaling the wages of all employees directly involved in production.

Is direct labor cost variable or fixed?

It is usually variable, depending on the level of production.

What factors influence direct labor cost?

Production volume, labor rates, and efficiency of workers.

Can indirect labor cost be a significant part of total cost?

Yes, especially in businesses with high administrative or support functions.

How does indirect labor cost affect product pricing?

It is allocated across all products, influencing overall cost structure.

How do seasonal variations affect direct labor cost?

It can fluctuate based on seasonal production demands.

Is training cost considered direct or indirect labor cost?

Generally, it's considered indirect unless it's very specific to a direct production role.

Do service industries have direct labor costs?

Yes, in services, it includes wages of those directly providing the service.

How are indirect labor costs allocated in budgeting?

They are spread out over all products or services as part of general expenses.

How can a business reduce indirect labor costs?

By improving operational efficiency and reducing unnecessary support roles.

Does automation impact direct labor cost?

Yes, automation can reduce the direct labor required for production.

What role does direct labor cost play in profitability?

It directly affects the cost of goods sold and thus profitability.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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