Hand Laborer and Material Mover Career Description


Hand laborers and material movers manually move freight, stock, or other materials.

What they do

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

They 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

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.

How to become a Hand Laborer and/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.

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

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).

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.


The median annual wage for hand laborers and material movers was $28,710 in May 2019. 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 $20,800, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $46,050.

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. 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.

Similar Job Titles

Dock Worker, Laborer, Line Tender, Loader, Material Handler, Merchandise Pickup/Receiving Associate, Receiver, Receiving Associate, Shipping and Receiving Materials Handler, Warehouse Worker

Related Occupations

Meter Reader-Utilities, Reinforcing Iron and Rebar Worker, Fence Erector, Rail-Track Laying and Maintenance Equipment Operator, Molding and Casting Worker

More Information

The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field.  Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas.  As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.

Magazines and Publications

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Video Transcript

While computers and machines now perform many kinds of work, the ability to accomplish a job using your own hands and strength has a value and reward all its own. Laboring with your hands takes coordination and stamina, but it also takes customer service skills and the ability to follow through on instructions. Several jobs require these qualities: Most hand laborers and freight, stock, and material movers work as pickers in warehouses… retrieving items from storage to be loaded and shipped. They may need to pack and wrap items, or load and unload them from a truck. Packers and packagers pack groceries for customers, or pack shipping materials for transport. They often label packages and keep records of what they’ve packed. Vehicle and equipment cleaners wash vehicles, storage tanks, and industrial machinery. Most clean cars for an auto dealership, car rental agency, or car wash. Machine feeders work in manufacturing or warehouses… they insert materials into equipment, while offbearers remove materials from equipment after processing. Refuse and recyclable material collectors pick up garbage and recyclables from homes and businesses to transport to a landfill or recycling center. Most work either in waste collection or for local government. Most hand laborers and material movers work full time, though part-time hours are not uncommon. Warehouse and shipping positions may require overnight shifts. It’s typical for employers to require that workers have the ability to lift a certain weight to qualify for the job, but there are no formal education requirements. Jobs often include repetitive movement and heavy lifting.

Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOne Stop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org