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What Is the Formula for Calculating the Marginal Product?

Original post by Sue-Lynn Carty of Demand Media

The marginal product is the change in the production output resulting from a change in a production input. When companies calculate the marginal product, they must hold all factors, with the exception of the increase in units of labor, constant. This means that only the units of labor change and other factors such as property, plants and equipment available for production remain the same.



Calculating the marginal product allows companies to see the increase in number of items produced per one unit of labor added. The definition of one labor unit can vary by company, but typically, one employee is one labor unit. The goal for the company is to find the number of employees it must hire to achieve maximum production and maximum revenue.

Marginal Product Formula

The marginal product formula is the change in quantity (Q) of items produced divided by the change in one unit of labor (L) added (change in Q divided by change in L). The denominator in this equation is always one because the formula is based on each one unit of increase in labor. Companies can just as easily find the marginal product by subtracting the previous quantity of items produced from the current quantity of items produced.

Marginal Product Example

A hat maker finds that he can produce five hats a day. After hiring an employee, he finds that his shop can produce a total of eight hats a day. The change in labor units is one. The change in quantity of times produced is three (8 -- 5 = 3). This is the numerator of the equation. The denominator is one. The marginal product in this example is 3/1 = 3.

Marginal Costs and Revenue

As a company hires each new employee, it incurs increased labor costs, called marginal costs. At the same time, the company is increasing its marginal product. This translates into an increase in revenue, called marginal revenue productivity. When marginal costs and marginal revenue productivity are equal, the company stops hiring new employees. If the company continues to hire employees after this point, its marginal product and revenue decrease while there costs increase. Economists refer to this as the law of diminishing returns.



About the Author

Sue-Lynn Carty has over five years experience as both a freelance writer and editor, and her work has appeared on the websites Work.com and LoveToKnow. Carty holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration, with an emphasis on financial management, from Davenport University.