What Is a Labor Resource?

In basic economics, labor resources, or simply labor, is one of the three major factors of production, the other two being land and input. In the broadest sense, labor can be defined simply as the ability to work or supply workers to a given industry or economic sector.

A labor resource most often entails some degree of human effort in the production process, such as with a single individual or a team of workers. In other words, labor resources involve the mental and physical contributions of an employee towards the production of goods. For some classical economists, labor resources also include technological insight and marketing support as well, the latter being responsible for delivering the finished product into a place of exchange where goods are ultimately sold. Compensation given labor resources is customarily called wages.

In Marxist theory of economics, labor resources take on another critical role. As a level of equivalency must be maintained between the cost of producing a product and its ultimate price in the market place, Marx argued that capitalists make the majority of their profits elsewhere, namely, at the site of production. Consequently, laborers are systemically retained at wage level and made to provide more production than their wages compensate for, providing what Marx called the “surplus value of labor.” Hence, according to this theory, the maximum exploitation of labor resources is essential for optimum wealth accumulation on the part of the owner.