What Hand Laborers and Material Movers Do
Hand laborers and material movers manually move freight, stock, or other materials.
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.
The median annual wage for hand laborers and material movers was $28,710 in May 2019.
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.
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|
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.
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 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
Warehousing Education and Research Council
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 ).