Bureau of Labor Statistics

Hand Laborers and Material Movers

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 $30,490 per year
$14.66 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education No formal educational credential
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2019 4,231,600
Job Outlook, 2019-29 3% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2019-29 121,300

Summary

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

The median annual wage for hand laborers and material movers was $30,490 in May 2020.

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.

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 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.

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

Hand laborers and material movers

$30,490

 

The median annual wage for hand laborers and material movers was $30,490 in May 2020. 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 $22,070, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $47,590.

Median annual wages for hand laborers and material movers in May 2020 were as follows:

Refuse and recyclable material collectors $39,100
Machine feeders and offbearers 33,000
Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand 31,120
Packers and packagers, hand 28,050
Cleaners of vehicles and equipment 27,640

In May 2020, the median annual wages for hand laborers and material movers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Wholesale trade $32,460
Transportation and warehousing 32,000
Manufacturing 31,900
Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services 28,600

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 2019-29

Total, all occupations

4%

Hand laborers and material movers

3%

Material moving workers

2%

 

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. Projected employment change will vary by occupation (see table below).

Some warehouses are installing equipment, such as high-speed conveyors and sorting systems, to increase efficiency. However, laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand, will still be needed to move materials in nearly all sectors of the economy.

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 reduce the need for workers there.

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, as well as a growing automobile dealers industry, is expected to contribute to employment growth of cleaners of vehicles and equipment.

Many machine feeders and offbearers 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, 2019-29

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

Occupational Title

Hand laborers and material movers

SOC Code
Employment, 20194,231,600
Projected Employment, 20294,353,000
Percent Change, 2019-293
Numeric Change, 2019-29121,300
Employment by Industry
Occupational Title

Cleaners of vehicles and equipment

SOC Code53-7061
Employment, 2019408,400
Projected Employment, 2029423,100
Percent Change, 2019-294
Numeric Change, 2019-2914,700
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand

SOC Code53-7062
Employment, 20192,986,000
Projected Employment, 20293,111,700
Percent Change, 2019-294
Numeric Change, 2019-29125,700
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Machine feeders and offbearers

SOC Code53-7063
Employment, 201962,900
Projected Employment, 202963,000
Percent Change, 2019-290
Numeric Change, 2019-29100
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Packers and packagers, hand

SOC Code53-7064
Employment, 2019640,800
Projected Employment, 2029609,900
Percent Change, 2019-29-5
Numeric Change, 2019-29-30,900
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Refuse and recyclable material collectors

SOC Code53-7081
Employment, 2019133,600
Projected Employment, 2029145,400
Percent Change, 2019-299
Numeric Change, 2019-2911,700
Employment by IndustryGet 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. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

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.

See How to Become One $37,080
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.

High school diploma or equivalent $34,340
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.

Postsecondary nondegree award $47,130
Material moving machine operators

Material Moving Machine Operators

Material moving machine operators use machinery to transport various objects.

See How to Become One $37,790
Material recording clerks

Material Recording Clerks

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

High school diploma or equivalent $31,170
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 $59,250

Contacts for More Info

Last Modified Date: Friday, April 9, 2021

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 May 25, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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