Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers, Hand

This is a sub-career of Hand Laborer or Material Mover

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Job Outlook:
Faster than average
Education: None
High: $48,560.00
Average: $37,510.00
Average: $18.03

What they do:

Manually move freight, stock, luggage, or other materials, or perform other general labor. Includes all manual laborers not elsewhere classified.

On the job, you would:

  • Move freight, stock, or other materials to and from storage or production areas, loading docks, delivery vehicles, ships, or containers, by hand or using trucks, tractors, or other equipment.
  • Sort cargo before loading and unloading.
  • Attach identifying tags to containers or mark them with identifying information.

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.


A3 Your Strengths Importance

Characteristics of this Career

78% Dependability  -  Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
75% Stress Tolerance  -  Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
74% Achievement/Effort  -  Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
72% Integrity  -  Job requires being honest and ethical.
71% Attention to Detail  -  Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
69% Cooperation  -  Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
68% Self-Control  -  Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
68% Adaptability/Flexibility  -  Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
66% Initiative  -  Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
A3 Your Strengths Importance


100% Realistic  -  Work involves designing, building, or repairing of equipment, materials, or structures, engaging in physical activity, or working outdoors. Realistic occupations are often associated with engineering, mechanics and electronics, construction, woodworking, transportation, machine operation, agriculture, animal services, physical or manual labor, athletics, or protective services.


A3 Your Strengths Importance

Abilities | Cognitive, Physical, Personality

69% Static Strength  -  The ability to exert maximum muscle force to lift, push, pull, or carry objects.

Job Details

Mark materials or objects for identification.
Review work orders or schedules to determine operations or procedures.
Receive information or instructions for performing work assignments.
Record operational or production data.
Move materials, equipment, or supplies.
Sort materials or objects for processing or transport.
Package materials or products.
Move materials, equipment, or supplies.
Secure cargo.
Monitor cargo area conditions.
Operate cranes, hoists, or other moving or lifting equipment.
Maintain facilities.
Operate cranes, hoists, or other moving or lifting equipment.
Operate cranes, hoists, or other moving or lifting equipment.
Maintain material moving equipment in good working condition.
Load shipments, belongings, or materials.
Connect cables or electrical lines.
Operate packing or other material processing equipment.
Set up material handling gear or equipment, such as rigging, packaging, or temporary structures.
Position material handling equipment.
Clean facilities or work areas.
Shovel materials.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Attributes & Percentage of Time Spent

96% Face-to-Face Discussions  -  How often do you have to have face-to-face discussions with individuals or teams in this job?
89% Work With Work Group or Team  -  How important is it to work with others in a group or team in this job?
88% Spend Time Using Your Hands to Handle, Control, or Feel Objects, Tools, or Controls  -  How much does this job require using your hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools or controls?
87% Wear Common Protective or Safety Equipment such as Safety Shoes, Glasses, Gloves, Hearing Protection, Hard Hats, or Life Jackets  -  How much does this job require wearing common protective or safety equipment such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hard hats or life jackets?
85% Time Pressure  -  How often does this job require the worker to meet strict deadlines?
83% Frequency of Decision Making  -  How frequently is the worker required to make decisions that affect other people, the financial resources, and/or the image and reputation of the organization?
82% Indoors, Environmentally Controlled  -  How often does this job require working indoors in environmentally controlled conditions?
79% Importance of Being Exact or Accurate  -  How important is being very exact or highly accurate in performing this job?
76% In an Open Vehicle or Equipment  -  How often does this job require working in an open vehicle or equipment (e.g., tractor)?
75% Contact With Others  -  How much does this job require the worker to be in contact with others (face-to-face, by telephone, or otherwise) in order to perform it?
70% Physical Proximity  -  To what extent does this job require the worker to perform job tasks in close physical proximity to other people?
69% Spend Time Standing  -  How much does this job require standing?
69% Freedom to Make Decisions  -  How much decision making freedom, without supervision, does the job offer?
67% Indoors, Not Environmentally Controlled  -  How often does this job require working indoors in non-controlled environmental conditions (e.g., warehouse without heat)?
66% Structured versus Unstructured Work  -  To what extent is this job structured for the worker, rather than allowing the worker to determine tasks, priorities, and goals?
66% Very Hot or Cold Temperatures  -  How often does this job require working in very hot (above 90 F degrees) or very cold (below 32 F degrees) temperatures?
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Tasks & Values

90% Performing General Physical Activities  -  Performing physical activities that require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling materials.
88% Handling and Moving Objects  -  Using hands and arms in handling, installing, positioning, and moving materials, and manipulating things.
72% Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events  -  Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
67% Controlling Machines and Processes  -  Using either control mechanisms or direct physical activity to operate machines or processes (not including computers or vehicles).
66% Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices, or Equipment  -  Running, maneuvering, navigating, or driving vehicles or mechanized equipment, such as forklifts, passenger vehicles, aircraft, or watercraft.

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.


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.

Stockers and order fillers receive, unpack, and track merchandise. Stock clerks move products from a warehouse to store shelves. They keep a record of items that enter or leave the stockroom and inspect for damaged goods. These clerks also use handheld radio frequency identification (RFID) scanners to keep track of merchandise. Order fillers retrieve customer orders and prepare them to be shipped.

Work Environment

Hand laborers and material movers held about 7.1 million jobs in 2022. 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 2,988,500
Stockers and order fillers 2,851,600
Packers and packagers, hand 659,600
Cleaners of vehicles and equipment 401,800
Refuse and recyclable material collectors 146,400
Machine feeders and offbearers 51,500

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

Retail trade 33%
Transportation and warehousing 22
Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services 14
Wholesale trade 10
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

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.

Getting Started

High School Diploma - or the equivalent (for example, GED)
Less than a High School Diploma

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 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 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).

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.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of hand laborers and material movers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 1,075,800 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.


Projected employment of hand laborers and material movers varies by occupation (see table).

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 partly offset fast employment growth.

As the population grows, the amount of trash generated also is expected to increase. Refuse and recyclable material collectors will be needed to remove the trash, but efficiencies created by automation and improved routing will constrain employment growth.

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, limiting the need for workers there.

Contacts for More Information

For more information about hand laborers and material movers, visit


Warehousing Education and Research Council

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 Median Annual Pay, May 2022
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 $39,520
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 $38,220
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 $49,920
Material moving machine operators Material Moving Machine Operators

Material moving machine operators use equipment to transport objects.

See How to Become One $41,730
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 $40,490
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 $66,100

Information provided by CareerFitter, LLC and other sources.

Sections of this page includes information from the O*NET 27.3 Database by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license.

CareerFitter, LLC has modified all or some of this information. USDOL/ETA has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.