Hand Laborers and Material Movers

Career, Salary and Education Information

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

  • Mover Driver Team Lead - College Hunks Hauling Junk - Hollywood, FL

    MUST be able to lift up to 75 pounds for an extended period of time. • MUST enjoy

  • Franchise Mover/Driver/Team Lead - College Hunks Hauling Junk - Fort Myers, FL

    MUST be able to lift up to 75 pounds for an extended period of time. • MUST enjoy hard

  • Material Mover - Coffee - Edison, NJ

    Rapidly growing CPG company in the beverage space with international

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 3.9 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 2,628,400
Packers and packagers, hand 710,800
Cleaners of vehicles and equipment 369,200
Refuse and recyclable material collectors 136,000
Machine feeders and offbearers 87,700

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

Transportation and warehousing 22%
Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services 21
Retail trade 15
Manufacturing 14
Wholesale trade 12

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; freight, stock, and material movers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. Refuse and recyclable material collectors and cleaners of vehicles and equipment have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. 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. About 1 in 4 hand laborers; freight, stock and material movers work part 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 $24,880. 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 $18,510, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $41,570.

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

Refuse and recyclable material collectors $35,270
Machine feeders and offbearers 28,410
Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand 25,980
Cleaners of vehicles and equipment 22,220
Packers and packagers, hand 22,130

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

Transportation and warehousing $27,630
Wholesale trade 27,460
Manufacturing 27,260
Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services 22,920
Retail trade 22,520

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

Most workers in these occupations work full time. About 1 in 4 hand laborers; freight, stock and material movers worked part 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 7 percent over the next ten years, 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 2/3 of all the workers in this profile—is projected to grow 8 percent over the next ten years, 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 grow 2 percent over the next ten years, slower than the average for all occupations. Grocery stores, which employ many hand packers and packagers, may employ fewer baggers as a growing number of stores also have self-checkouts where customers or existing cashiers bag groceries themselves. However, those employed in warehouses are expected to experience some employment gains as the industry grows.

Employment of refuse and recyclable material collectors is projected to grow 13 percent over the next ten years, 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 11 percent over the next ten years, faster than 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 grow 2 percent over the next ten years, slower than the average for all occupations. Many of these workers are employed in manufacturing industries, in which some functions are automated, so fewer of these workers will be required.

Job Prospects for Hand Laborers and Material Movers

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, 2016-26
Occupational Title Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26
Percent Numeric
Hand laborers and material movers 3,932,000 4,203,600 7 271,700
  Cleaners of vehicles and equipment 369,200 408,700 11 39,500
  Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand 2,628,400 2,828,100 8 199,700
  Machine feeders and offbearers 87,700 89,200 2 1,600
  Packers and packagers, hand 710,800 723,800 2 13,000
  Refuse and recyclable material collectors 136,000 153,900 13 17,900


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

Explore more careers: View all Careers or Browse Careers by Category

Search for jobs: