Unlocking the Utilization Ratio

Labor Costs - Complete Controller

Understanding the utilization ratio is crucial for businesses seeking effective cost management and enhanced workforce productivity. This essential ratio allows companies to charge clients efficiently, reflecting billing effectiveness and overall productivity. Businesses calculate indirect and direct labor expense utilization ratios, employing two distinct methods in bookkeeping.

These ratios are pivotal in evaluating 
workforce performance and guiding leaders to make informed decisions about productivity and staffing. This article delves into the significance of labor utilization ratios, detailing methods to calculate and interpret direct and indirect labor utilization, offering insights for businesses aiming at optimal cost control and workforce management.Complete Controller. America’s Bookkeeping Experts

What is the Utilization Ratio?

The utilization rate is an essential ratio companies can use to charge their clients. The ratios are used to maximize the productivity time for employees. It can reflect the billing effectiveness and the company’s overall productivity. Two methods are used in bookkeeping to calculate indirect and direct labor expense utilization ratios.

Method One

The first method calculates the total billable hours divided by the number of hours recorded in a particular period. For example, if the total hours are 60 but the hours billable are 30, then the utilization rate would be 30/60 = 50%. Using this utilization ratio, if the company is willing to cease recording its non-billable time, the ratio will always be equal to 100%.

Method Two

The second method for calculating the labor utilization rate uses the billable total hours divided by a fixed number of weekly hours. An example will help elaborate this formula. If 22 billable hours are recorded in a predetermined 40 hours per week, then the utilization ratio will be calculated as 22/40 = 55%.

Why are Labor Utilization Ratios Important?

Company leaders rely on utilization ratios to identify how much of the company’s workforce is currently employed and productive. The ratio provides information on how the current workforce is performing and the required performance from current employees. If the ratio indicates overproduction, then the company must hire more people to improve and balance productivity based on utilization rates.

CorpNet. Start A New Business NowDirect Labor Utilization

A company’s payroll is considered the most significant organizational expense. Companies want to make sure that their payroll costs are generating sufficient income. The direct labor utilization ratio indicates how much a company spends each year on direct labor.

The remainder of payroll-associated costs is considered indirect labor costs. Examples of indirect labor costs are:

  • Amount spent on training employees
  • Administrative expenses
  • Marketing expenses
  • Paid vacations
  • Taxes

How to Calculate Direct Labor Utilization Ratio

The calculation needed for the direct labor utilization ratio includes dividing the total payroll amount associated with direct labor by the total payroll cost for that specific period, giving the direct utilization ratio. For example, suppose your company is spending $4,000 on the payroll for a specific pay period and pays an additional $3,000 in direct labor expenses. In that case, the utilization ratio for direct labor is 75%. (3,000/4,000 = 75%)

On average, the direct labor utilization ratio must be around 65%. A value higher than 65% will indicate that the company is utilizing its labor force efficiently. Companies with fewer paid vacations and paid training will have a lower utilization cost.Download A Free Financial Toolkit

Indirect Labor Utilization

Overhead costs are also called indirect labor costs. Labor overhead costs are directly associated with the different materials used for direct labor. Calculating indirect labor utilization is different, and here’s what we need:

  • The number of hours an employee has worked: if the employee worked for 52 weeks per year * 40 hours per week, they worked for almost 2,080 hours.
  • Deduct the total time spent on holidays per year: 45 days or 360 hours (including sick leaves, public holidays, training, and seminars) 360 – 2,080 =1,720 hours.

Hence, the 1,720 hours are our total hours spent by one employee as indirect labor utilization.


Utilization ratios are vital when calculating labor costs. Most business accountants know how to use these ratios to manage a business’s labor costs, so hiring a professional business accountant is the ideal way to handle these calculations.

However, if you don’t have the budget to hire a professional accountant, understanding utilization ratios and calculating labor costs will be vital to your business accounting plan.

ADP. Payroll – HR – BenefitsAbout Complete Controller® – America’s Bookkeeping Experts Complete Controller is the Nation’s Leader in virtual bookkeeping, providing service to businesses and households alike. Utilizing Complete Controller’s technology, clients gain access to a cloud platform where their QuickBooks™️ file, critical financial documents, and back-office tools are hosted in an efficient SSO environment. Complete Controller’s team of certified US-based accounting professionals provide bookkeeping, record storage, performance reporting, and controller services including training, cash-flow management, budgeting and forecasting, process and controls advisement, and bill-pay. With flat-rate service plans, Complete Controller is the most cost-effective expert accounting solution for business, family-office, trusts, and households of any size or complexity.Complete Controller. America’s Bookkeeping Experts