Direct Labor Rate Variance: Definition, Formula, Explanation, Analysis, And Example


Direct Labor rate variance indicates the actual cost of any change from the standard labor rate of remuneration. In simple words, it measures the difference between the actual and expected cost of labor.

Direct labor rate variance is also called direct labor price variance or spending variance or wage rate variance. In terms of calculation, it is very much similar to direct material price variance.


Direct Labor Rate Variance

                                = Actual Hours (Actual Rate – Standard Rate) or

                                = Actual Cost – Standard cost of actual labor hours


Direct labor rate variance recognizes and explains the performance of human resource department in negotiating lower wage rates with employees and labor unions.

It is because the labor rate standards are defined by labor union contracts and company personnel policies.

Standard labor rates are influenced by amount of overtime, new hiring at various paying rates, promotions of labors and outcome of contract negotiations with any unions representing the production staff.

The information obtained from direct labor variance can be used to plan ahead in the development of budgets for future purposes as well as feedback loop to those employees responsible for direct labor component of business.


Favorable rate variance is attained when standard labor hours’ rate exceeds actual direct labor hours’ rate. Consequently, favorable labor rate variance cannot always be good.

When labors are hired at lower rates owing to their skills, the direct labor rate variance will be positive, however, these labors ought to generate poor output and result in adverse efficiency variance. The reasons for favorable labor variance include:

  • Hiring of lowly skilled labors than required. It needs to be studied with labor efficiency variance.
  • General decline in wages rate in the market
  • Over ambitious setting of standard cost of labor hours
  • General increment in wages rate in the market.
  • Inefficient hiring by HR department
  • Effective negotiations by labor unions
See also  Direct Material Price Variance: Definition, Formula Explanation, Analysis, And Example

Adverse labor rate variance indicates higher labor costs when compared with standard costs. The reasons for adverse labor rate variance are as follows:


Sinra Inc estimates that average labor hour rate for the upcoming project will be $20 per hour. The number of hours estimated to be worked upon was 400 hours.

As it turned out, the actual number of hours turned out to be 412 hours and rate per hour was $21 per hour.

Here, we have,

Standard hours SH = 400 hrs

Standard rate SR = $20 per hour

Actual hours AH = 412 hours

Actual rate AR = $21 per hour

Direct Labor rate variance = AH (AR – SR)

     = 412 (21-20)

                                          = $ 412 Adverse

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