Hand Laborers and Material Movers

Summary

hand laborers and material movers image
Many hand laborers pack and transfer materials around a warehouse.
Quick Facts: Hand Laborers and Material Movers
2020 Median Pay $qf_median_annual_wage_html $qf_median_hourly_wage_html
Typical Entry-Level Education $qf_education_html
Work Experience in a Related Occupation $qf_experience_html
On-the-job Training $qf_training_html
Number of Jobs, 2020 $qf_number_jobs_html
Job Outlook, 2020-30 $qf_outlook_html
Employment Change, 2020-30 $qf_openings_html

What Hand Laborers and Material Movers Do

Hand laborers and material movers manually move freight, stock, or other materials.

Work Environment

Most hand laborers and material movers work full time. Because materials are shipped around the clock, some workers, especially those in warehousing, work overnight shifts.

How to Become a Hand Laborer or Material Mover

There are usually no formal educational requirements for anyone to become a hand laborer or material mover. Employers typically require only that applicants be physically able to perform the work.

Pay

Job Outlook

Overall employment of hand laborers and material movers is projected to grow $pc.toString().replaceAll("^\-","") percent from 2020 to 2030, $gra.

About $tools.number.format('#,###',$op) openings for hand laborers and material movers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for hand laborers and material movers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of hand laborers and material movers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about hand laborers and material movers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Hand Laborers and Material Movers Do

Laborers and material movers
Some vehicle and equipment cleaners wash cars.

Hand laborers and material movers manually move freight, stock, or other materials. Some of these workers feed or remove material to or from machines, clean vehicles, pick up unwanted household goods, and pack materials for moving.

Duties

Hand laborers and material movers typically do the following:

  • Manually move material from one place to another
  • Pack or wrap products by hand
  • Keep a record of the material they move
  • Signal machine operators to help move material
  • Clean cars, equipment, and workplaces

In warehouses and in wholesale and retail operations, hand laborers and material movers work closely with material moving machine operators and material recording clerks. Some workers are employed in manufacturing industries, loading material onto conveyor belts or other machines.

The following are examples of types of hand laborers and material movers: 

Cleaners of vehicles and equipment wash automobiles and other vehicles, as well as storage tanks, pipelines, and related machinery. They use cleaning products, vacuums, hoses, and brushes. Most of these workers clean cars at a carwash, an automobile dealership, or a rental agency. Some clean industrial equipment at manufacturing firms. Some—for example, those who work at a carwash, also known as carwash attendants—interact with customers.

Hand laborers and freight, stock, and material movers move materials to and from storage and production areas, loading docks, delivery trucks, ships, and containers. Although their specific duties may vary, most of these movers, often called pickers, work in warehouses. Some workers retrieve products from storage and move them to loading areas. Other workers load and unload cargo from a truck. When moving a package, pickers keep track of the package number, sometimes with a hand-held scanner, to ensure proper delivery. Sometimes they open containers and sort the material.

Hand packers and packagers package a variety of materials by hand. They may label cartons, inspect items for defects, and keep records of items packed. Some of these workers pack materials for shipment and move them to a loading dock. Hand packers in grocery stores, also known as grocery baggers, bag groceries for customers at checkout.

Machine feeders and offbearers process materials by feeding them into equipment or by removing them from equipment. The equipment is generally operated by other workers, such as material moving machine operators. Machine feeders and offbearers help the operator if the machine becomes jammed or needs minor repairs. Machine feeders also track the amount of material they process during a shift.

Refuse and recyclable material collectors gather garbage and recyclables from homes and businesses to transport to a dump, landfill, or recycling center. Many collectors lift garbage cans by hand and empty them into their truck. Some collectors drive the garbage or recycling truck along a scheduled route and may use a hydraulic lift to empty the contents of a dumpster into the truck.

Work Environment

Laborers and material movers
Refuse and recyclable material collectors lift heavy garbage containers.

Hand laborers and material movers lift and carry heavy objects, and their work is usually repetitive and physically demanding. They bend, kneel, crouch, or crawl in awkward positions.

Injuries and Illnesses

Hand laborers and freight, stock, and material movers and refuse and recyclable material collectors have some of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. Moving heavy objects around warehouses or onto trucks, or bending while cleaning a vehicle, may lead to sprains, strains, or overexertion.

Work Schedules

Most hand laborers and freight, stock, and material movers work full time.

Shifts longer than 8 hours are common, and sometimes overtime is available. Because materials are shipped around the clock, some workers, especially those in warehousing, work overnight shifts.

How to Become a Hand Laborer or Material Mover

Laborers and material movers
Hand laborers and material movers learn on the job.

There are usually no formal educational requirements for anyone to become a hand laborer or material mover. Employers typically require only that applicants be physically able to perform the work.

Education

There are no formal educational requirements for anyone to become a hand laborer or material mover.

Training

Most positions for hand laborers and material movers require less than 1 month of on-the-job training. Some workers need only a few days of training, and most training is done by a supervisor or a more experienced worker who decides when trainees are ready to work on their own.

Workers learn safety rules as part of their training. Many of these rules are standardized through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Refuse and recyclable material collectors who drive trucks that exceed a certain capacity—such as vehicles with the combined weight of the vehicle, passengers, and cargo exceeding 26,000 pounds—must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Obtaining a CDL requires passing written, skill, and vision tests.

Important Qualities

Customer-service skills. Hand laborers and material movers who work with the public, such as grocery baggers or carwash attendants, must be pleasant and courteous to customers.

Hand–eye coordination. Most hand laborers and material movers use their arms and hands to manipulate objects or move objects into specific positions.

Listening skills. Hand laborers and material movers follow instructions that a supervisor gives them.

Physical stamina. Hand laborers and material movers need the endurance to perform strenuous tasks, such as moving or cleaning objects, throughout the day.

Physical strength. Some hand laborers and material movers must be able to lift and carry heavy objects.

Pay

Hand Laborers and Material Movers

Median annual wages, May 2020

Total, all occupations

$41,950

Material moving workers

$30,720

 

Some hand laborers and material movers, such as grocery baggers or carwash attendants, may receive tips.

Most hand laborers and freight, stock, and material movers work full time.

Shifts longer than 8 hours are common, and sometimes overtime is available. Because materials are shipped around the clock, some workers, especially those in warehousing, work overnight shifts.

Job Outlook

Hand Laborers and Material Movers

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Total, all occupations

8%

Material moving workers

7%

 

Overall employment of hand laborers and material movers is projected to grow $pc.toString().replaceAll("^\-","") percent from 2020 to 2030, $gra.

About $tools.number.format('#,###',$op) openings for hand laborers and material movers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Overall employment of hand laborers and material movers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Projected employment changes will vary by occupation.

Employment of hand laborers and freight, stock, and material movers—about two-thirds of all the workers in this profile—is projected to grow 5 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Although some warehouses are installing equipment such as high-speed conveyors and sorting systems to increase efficiency, these workers will still be needed to move materials in nearly all sectors of the economy.

Employment of hand packers and packagers is projected to decline 3 percent from 2018 to 2028. Grocery stores, which employ many hand packers and packagers, may employ fewer baggers as a growing number of stores have self-checkouts where customers or existing cashiers bag groceries themselves. Automation is becoming more viable in warehouses and, if it expands, will reduce the need for workers there.

Employment of refuse and recyclable material collectors is projected to grow 8 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. Trash collection activity should be expected to increase as the population grows, and collectors will be needed to remove trash.

Employment of cleaners of vehicles and equipment is projected to grow 6 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Demand for automotive repair and maintenance services, as well as a growing automobile dealers industry, is expected to contribute to employment growth of cleaners of vehicles and equipment.

Employment of machine feeders and offbearers is projected to show little or no change from 2018 to 2028. Many of these workers are employed in manufacturing industries, in which functions are being automated, so employment is expected to remain unchanged.

Job Prospects

Job prospects for hand laborers and material movers are expected to be good. The need to replace workers who leave these occupations should create a large number of job openings.

Employment projections data for hand laborers and material movers, 2020-30
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2020 Projected Employment, 2030 Change, 2020-30 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

$occ_name

$tools.number.format($emp_current) $tools.number.format($emp_projected) $emp_percent_change $tools.number.format($emp_net_change)

Cleaners of vehicles and equipment

53-7061 367,200 399,600 9 32,400 Get data

Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand

53-7062 2,821,700 3,077,500 9 255,800 Get data

Machine feeders and offbearers

53-7063 63,000 66,900 6 3,900 Get data

Packers and packagers, hand

53-7064 599,700 600,600 0 1,000 Get data

Refuse and recyclable material collectors

53-7081 140,500 157,200 12 16,700 Get data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of hand laborers and material movers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2020 MEDIAN PAY
Construction laborers and helpers Construction Laborers and Helpers

Construction laborers and helpers perform many tasks that require physical labor on construction sites.

$qf_education_html $qf_median_annual_wage_html
Delivery truck drivers and driver/sales workers Delivery Truck Drivers and Driver/Sales Workers

Delivery truck drivers and driver/sales workers pick up, transport, and drop off packages and small shipments within a local region or urban area.

$qf_education_html $qf_median_annual_wage_html
Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers Heavy and Tractor-trailer Truck Drivers

Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers transport goods from one location to another.

$qf_education_html $qf_median_annual_wage_html
Material moving machine operators Material Moving Machine Operators

Material moving machine operators use machinery to transport various objects.

$qf_education_html $qf_median_annual_wage_html
Material recording clerks Material Recording Clerks

Material recording clerks track product information in order to keep businesses and supply chains on schedule.

$qf_education_html $qf_median_annual_wage_html
Water transportation occupations Water Transportation Workers

Water transportation workers operate and maintain vessels that take cargo and people over water.

$qf_education_html $qf_median_annual_wage_html
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Hand Laborers and Material Movers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/transportation-and-material-moving/hand-laborers-and-material-movers.htm (visited January 28, 2023).

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 4, 2019