How to Advance (Advancement)
In many of these occupations, experience may allow workers to qualify or become trainees for jobs such as construction trades workers; assemblers or other production workers; or motor vehicle operators. In many workplaces, new employees gain experience in a material moving position before being promoted to a better paying and more highly skilled job. Some may eventually advance to become supervisors.
Material movers held 4.6 million jobs in 2008. They were distributed among the detailed occupations as follows:
Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand 2,317,300
Packers and packagers, hand 758,800
Industrial truck and tractor operators 610,300
Cleaners of vehicles and equipment 348,900
Refuse and recyclable material collectors 149,000
Machine feeders and offbearers 140,600
Excavating and loading machine and dragline operators 75,700
Crane and tower operators 43,900
Conveyor operators and tenders 41,000
Wellhead pumpers 18,600
Tank car, truck, and ship loaders 12,000
Pump operators, except wellhead pumpers 9,700
Loading machine operators, underground mining 4,400
Gas compressor and gas pumping station operators 4,300
Shuttle car operators 3,100
Hoist and winch operators 2,800
Dredge operators 2,200
Material moving workers, all other 41,000
About 29 percent of all material movers worked in the wholesale trade or retail trade industries. Another 20 percent worked in manufacturing; 17 percent were in transportation and warehousing; 4 percent were in construction and mining; and 12 percent worked in the employment services industry, on a temporary or contract basis. For example, companies that need workers for only a few days, to move materials or to clean up a site, may contract with temporary help agencies specializing in providing suitable workers on a short-term basis. A small proportion of material movers were self-employed.
Material movers work in every part of the country. Some work in remote locations on large construction projects such as highways and dams, while others work in factories, warehouses, or mining operations.
Despite little or no change in employment, numerous job openings will be created by the need to replace workers who leave this very large occupation.
Employment in material moving occupations is projected to decline by 1 percent between 2008 and 2018. Improvements in equipment, such as automated storage and retrieval systems and conveyors, and in supply management processes, such as automatic identification and data collection (AIDC), will continue to raise productivity and reduce the demand for material movers.
Job growth for material movers depends on the growth or decline of employing industries and the type of equipment the workers operate or the materials they handle. Employment should grow in the warehousing and storage industry as more firms contract out their warehousing functions to this industry. Opportunities for material movers should decline in manufacturing due to productivity improvements and outsourcing of warehousing and other activities that depend on material movers. Opportunities will vary by establishment size as well, as large establishments are more likely to have the resources to invest in automated systems for their material moving needs. Although increasing automation will eliminate some routine tasks, many jobs will remain to meet the need to operate and maintain new equipment.
Despite the projected employment decline, a relatively high number of job openings will be created by the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations, retire, or leave this very large occupation for other reasonsócharacteristic of occupations requiring little prior or formal training. Many industries where material moving workers are employed are sensitive to changes in economic conditions, so the number of job openings fluctuates with the economy.
Median hourly wages of material moving workers in May 2008 were relatively low, as indicated by the following tabulation:
Gas compressor and gas pumping station operators $21.45
Loading machine operators, underground mining $20.54
Shuttle car operators $20.29
Crane and tower operators $20.13
Pump operators, except wellhead pumpers $18.81
Wellhead pumpers $18.20
Tank car truck and ship loaders $18.14
Hoist and winch operators $17.50
Excavating and loading machine and dragline operators $16.93
Dredge operators $16.70
Refuse and recyclable material collectors $14.93
Industrial truck and tractor operators $13.98
Conveyor operators and tenders $13.95
Machine feeders and offbearers $12.29
Laborers and freight stock and material movers, hand $10.89
Cleaners of vehicles and equipment $9.35
Packers and packagers, hand $9.16
Material moving workers, all other $15.68
Wages vary according to experience and job responsibilities. Wages usually are higher in metropolitan areas. Seasonal peaks and lulls in workload can affect the number of hours scheduled, which affects earnings. Some crane operators, such as those unloading containers from ships at major ports, earn substantially more than their counterparts in other industries or establishments. Some material movers are union members, and these workers tend to earn higher wages.
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