Hand Laborers and Material Movers

Career, Salary and Education Information

What They 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 One: 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.

Salary: The median annual wage for hand laborers and material movers is $30,320.

Job Outlook: Overall employment of hand laborers and material movers is projected to grow 6 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

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

Following is everything you need to know about a career as a hand laborers or material mover with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 Material Mover Jobs

  • Material Specialist /Material Handler - 1st Shift - Caterpillar - Denison, TX

    This position is responsible for all material moves and transactions, including shipping, receiving and production support. ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES: The essential functions include, but ...

  • Material Handler - Crating / Shipping - Clayton Industries - Whittier, CA

    To perform this job successfully, an individual must be able to operate a forklift, hand driven materials mover , and use power tools such as saws and nail guns. The requirements listed below are ...

  • Material Handler - Night Shift - Multi-Color Corporation - Fullerton, CA

    The Material Handler interacts with other departments to achieve the company's core strategies and moves products to accommodate production. Why work at MCC: * Compensation: $18 * Generous benefits ...

See all Material Mover jobs

What Hand Laborers and Material Movers Do[About this section] [To Top]

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 of Hand Laborers and Material Movers

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 for Hand Laborers and Material Movers[About this section] [To Top]

Hand laborers and material movers hold about 6.5 million jobs. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up hand laborers and material movers is distributed as follows:

Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand 2,806,500
Stockers and order fillers 2,472,700
Packers and packagers, hand 602,300
Cleaners of vehicles and equipment 391,700
Refuse and recyclable material collectors 138,700
Machine feeders and offbearers 61,200

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

Transportation and warehousing 21%
Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services 15%
Wholesale trade 11%
Manufacturing 10%

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 for Hand Laborers and Material Movers

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.

Hand Laborer and Material Mover Work Schedules

Most workers in these occupations 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 and Material Mover[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Hand Laborers and Material Movers near you!

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 for Hand Laborers and Material Movers

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

Hand Laborer and 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 for Hand Laborers and Material Movers

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 for Hand Laborers and Material Movers

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.

Hand Laborer and Material Mover Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for hand laborers and material movers is $30,320. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,560, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $46,930.

Median annual wages for hand laborers and material movers are as follows:

Refuse and recyclable material collectors $38,500
Machine feeders and offbearers $37,010
Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand $30,110
Packers and packagers, hand $29,940
Cleaners of vehicles and equipment $29,280

The median annual wages for hand laborers and material movers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Transportation and warehousing $36,590
Wholesale trade $36,050
Manufacturing $35,990
Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services $29,920

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

Most workers in these occupations 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 for Hand Laborers and Material Movers[About this section] [To Top]

Overall employment of hand laborers and material movers is projected to grow 6 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 1,056,000 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 of Hand Laborers and Material Movers

Projected employment of hand laborers and material movers varies by occupation.

Some warehouses have installed equipment, such as high-speed conveyors and sorting systems, to increase efficiency. However, hand laborers and freight, stock, and material movers will still be needed to move materials in many sectors of the economy. Machine feeders and offbearers will be needed to supply materials into or remove materials from equipment that is automated or tended by other workers.

The continued growth in e-commerce will create an increased demand for packaging activities, supporting the demand for stockers and order fillers to prepare orders for pickup or delivery. In addition, some stores may require more workers to handle orders for pickup. However, companies are expanding the use of automated storage and retrieval tools, such as scanners and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, in response to rising demand for products. These technologies will increase productivity for some of the manual tasks performed by stockers and order fillers, which may offset fast employment growth.

As the population grows, the amount of trash generated also is expected to increase; consequently, refuse and recyclable material collectors will be needed to remove trash.

Demand for automotive repair and maintenance services is expected to contribute to employment growth of cleaners of vehicles and equipment.

Grocery stores, which employ many hand packers and packagers, may employ fewer baggers as a growing number of stores have self-checkout stands at which customers or existing cashiers bag groceries themselves. Automation is becoming more viable in warehouses and, if it expands, will limit the need for workers there.

Employment projections data for Hand Laborers and Material Movers, 2021-31
Occupational Title Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31
Percent Numeric
Hand laborers and material movers 6,473,000 6,831,300 6 358,300
  Cleaners of vehicles and equipment 391,700 414,300 6 22,700
  Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand 2,806,500 2,974,800 6 168,400
  Machine feeders and offbearers 61,200 65,000 6 3,900
  Packers and packagers, hand 602,300 600,300 0 -2,000
  Stockers and order fillers 2,472,700 2,630,600 6 157,900
  Refuse and recyclable material collectors 138,700 146,200 5 7,500


A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.


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