Hand Laborers and Material Movers

Summary

hand laborers and material movers image
Many hand laborers pack and transfer materials around a warehouse.
Quick Facts: Hand Laborers and Material Movers
2015 Median Pay $24,090 per year
$11.58 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, 2014 3,719,300
Job Outlook, 2014-24 5% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 175,500

What Hand Laborers and Material Movers Do

Hand laborers and material movers manually move freight, stock, or other materials. Others feed or remove material to and from machines, clean vehicles, pick up unwanted household goods, and pack materials for moving.

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

Formal education is not usually required 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 $24,090 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of hand laborers and material movers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job prospects should be very 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. Others 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 who help move material
  • Clean cars, equipment, and workplaces

In warehouses and 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, where they load material onto conveyor belts or other machines.

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 car wash, an automobile dealership, or a rental agency. Some clean industrial equipment at manufacturing firms. Some—for example, those who work at a car wash—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. Many hand packers are employed by grocery stores, where they 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 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. When collecting materials from a dumpster, drivers use a hydraulic lift to empty the contents of the dumpster into their truck.

Work Environment

Laborers and material movers
Refuse and recyclable material collectors lift heavy garbage containers.

Hand laborers and material movers held about 3.7 million jobs in 2014.

Hand laborers and freight, stock, and material movers held about 2.4 million jobs in 2014. About 18 percent were employed in temporary help services, and about 8 percent worked in warehousing and storage in 2014.

Hand packers and packagers held about 695,400 jobs in 2014. About 21 percent were employed in grocery stores, and about 18 percent worked in temporary help services in 2014.

Cleaners of vehicles and equipment held about 346,900 jobs in 2014. About 38 percent were employed in the automotive repair and maintenance industry, and about 22 percent worked in the automobile dealers industry in 2014.

Refuse and recyclable material collectors held about 131,500 jobs in 2014. About 39 percent were employed in waste collection, and about 34 percent worked in local government in 2014.

Machine feeders and offbearers held about 104,200 jobs in 2014. About 64 percent were employed in manufacturing, and about 23 percent worked in warehousing and storage in 2014.

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 both have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. Moving heavy objects around warehouses or onto trucks may lead to sprains, strains, and overexertion.

Work Schedules

Most hand laborers and material movers work full time. Almost 1 in 4 hand laborers and material movers worked part time in 2014.  

Shifts longer than 8 hours are common, as is overtime. 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.

Formal education is not usually required 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 education requirements 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 & 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 car wash 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 workers must be able to lift and carry heavy objects.

Pay

Hand Laborers and Material Movers

Median annual wages, May 2015

Total, all occupations

$36,200

Material moving workers

$25,420

Hand laborers and material movers

$24,090

 

The median annual wage for hand laborers and material movers was $24,090 in May 2015. 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 $17,980, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $40,720.

Median annual wages for hand laborers and material movers in May 2015 were as follows:

Refuse and recyclable material collectors $33,800
Machine feeders and offbearers 29,440
Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand 25,010
Cleaners of vehicles and equipment 21,310
Packers and packagers, hand 21,010

Some workers, such as grocery baggers or car wash attendants, may receive tips.

Most people in these occupations work full time. Almost 1 in 4 of hand laborers and material movers worked part time in 2014.

Shifts longer than 8 hours are common, as is overtime. 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 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Hand laborers and material movers

5%

Material moving workers

4%

 

Overall employment of hand laborers and material movers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Projected employment changes will vary by occupation.

Employment of cleaners of vehicles and equipment is projected to grow 10 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for automotive repair and maintenance services, as well as a growing automobile dealers industry, are expected to drive employment growth of cleaners of vehicles and equipment.

Employment of refuse and recyclable material collectors is projected to grow 7 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Trash collection will likely continue to grow as the population grows, and collectors will be needed to remove trash.

Employment of hand laborers and freight, stock, and material movers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, 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 from 2014 to 2024, 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 cashiers bag groceries themselves. However, those employed in warehouses are expected to experience some employment gains as the industry grows.

Employment of machine feeders and offbearers is projected to decline 3 percent from 2014 to 2024. Many of these workers are employed in manufacturing industries, where some functions are automated, requiring fewer of these workers.

Job Prospects

Job prospects for hand laborers and material movers are expected to be very 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, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Hand laborers and material movers

3,719,300 3,894,800 5 175,500

Cleaners of vehicles and equipment

53-7061 346,900 380,000 10 33,100 [XLSX]

Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand

53-7062 2,441,300 2,566,400 5 125,100 [XLSX]

Machine feeders and offbearers

53-7063 104,200 100,700 -3 -3,500 [XLSX]

Packers and packagers, hand

53-7064 695,400 706,900 2 11,500 [XLSX]

Refuse and recyclable material collectors

53-7081 131,500 140,900 7 9,400 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) 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 OES 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.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet 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 2015 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 $30,890
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. They drive trucks with a gross vehicle weight (GVW)—the combined weight of the vehicle, passengers, and cargo—of 26,000 pounds or less. Most of the time, delivery truck drivers transport merchandise from a distribution center to businesses and households.

High school diploma or equivalent $27,760
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. Most tractor-trailer drivers are long-haul drivers and operate trucks with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) capacity—that is, the combined weight of the vehicle, passengers, and cargo—exceeding 26,000 pounds. These drivers deliver goods over intercity routes, sometimes spanning several states.

Postsecondary nondegree award $40,260
Material moving machine operators

Material Moving Machine Operators

Material moving machine operators use machinery to transport various objects. Some operators move construction materials around building sites or excavate earth from a mine. Others move goods around a warehouse or onto container ships.

See How to Become One $33,640
Water transportation occupations

Water Transportation Workers

Water transportation workers operate and maintain vessels that take cargo and people over water. The vessels travel to and from foreign ports across the ocean and to domestic ports along the coasts, across the Great Lakes, and along the country’s many inland waterways.

See How to Become One $55,000
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Hand Laborers and Material Movers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/transportation-and-material-moving/hand-laborers-and-material-movers.htm (visited April 29, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015