Employment of material moving machine operators is projected to grow 12 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Employment of both conveyor operators and tenders and industrial truck and tractor operators is expected to grow 12 percent. Both of these occupations are heavily concentrated in warehouse environments. The need for warehouses will grow as consumer spending increases.
However, employment growth will be limited as automation becomes more commonplace. Most warehouses are installing equipment such as high-speed conveyors, high-speed sorting systems, and robotic pickers. This equipment increases the efficiency of material movers, allowing warehouses to trim the numbers of workers they employ.
Employment of crane and tower operators is projected to grow 16 percent. As global shipping increases, more of these operators will be needed at ports to load and unload large cargo ships. Employment growth also will be driven by the recovery of the construction industry, in which many of these workers are employed. Employment of crane operators is projected to grow 31 percent in construction and 26 percent in support activities for water transportation.
Employment of hoist and winch operators is projected to grow 6 percent. Like crane and tower operators they will be needed at ports to help load and unload cargo. Employment of hoist and winch operators is projected to grow 14 percent in support activities for water transportation. However, they are also heavily concentrated in declining manufacturing industries, which will contribute to slower growth.
Employment of excavating and loading machine and dragline operators is projected to grow 17 percent. Many of these operators work in the construction industry, whose projected fast growth will drive job growth in this occupation.
Employment of dredge operators is projected to grow 15 percent as the need for more dredging in the Great Lakes and in other large ports increases. However, environmental concerns are expected to hold up some dredging projects, limiting the growth of this occupation.
Employment of underground mining loading machine operators is projected to decline by 2 percent, largely due to an expected decline in coal mining, where many of these workers are employed. This will be caused by technology gains that boost worker productivity. Employment of these operators is projected to decline 7 percent in coal mining.
Job prospects should be favorable. A high number of job openings should be created by the need to replace workers who leave these occupations.
As automation increases, the technology used by these occupations will become more complex. Employers will prefer workers who are comfortable using technology such as tablet computers and hand-held scanners.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition