Hand Laborers and Material Movers

What Hand Laborers and Material Movers Do

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQr_uQMpmEM

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

The median annual wage for hand laborers and material movers was $28,710 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of hand laborers and material movers is projected to grow 3 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job prospects should be good because of the need to replace workers who leave these occupations.

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.

Hand laborers and material movers held about 4.2 million jobs in 2019. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up hand laborers and material movers was distributed as follows:

Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand 2,986,000
Packers and packagers, hand 640,800
Cleaners of vehicles and equipment 408,400
Refuse and recyclable material collectors 133,600
Machine feeders and offbearers 62,900

The largest employers of hand laborers and material movers were as follows:

Transportation and warehousing 23%
Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services 22
Manufacturing 14
Wholesale trade 13

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.

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 Median Annual Pay, May 2019

Construction Laborers and Helpers

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

See How to Become One $36,000

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.

High school diploma or equivalent $32,020

Heavy and Tractor-trailer Truck Drivers

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

Postsecondary nondegree award $45,260

Material Moving Machine Operators

Material moving machine operators use machinery to transport various objects.

See How to Become One $36,770

Material Recording Clerks

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

High school diploma or equivalent $30,010

Water transportation occupations

Water Transportation Workers

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

See How to Become One $57,330

For more information about hand laborers and material movers, visit

MHI

Warehousing Education and Research Council

O*NET

Cleaners of Vehicles and Equipment

Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers, Hand

Machine Feeders and Offbearers

Packers and Packagers, Hand

Refuse and Recyclable Material Collectors


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 ).