US Postal Service charges more, carries more mail — still loses $2 billion

The $2B loss for the spring quarter was almost three times higher than the loss for the same period last year. The agency blamed increases in compensation and benefit costs.

Mike Blake/Reuters/File
A U.S. postal worker loads up his truck with mail for delivery from the postal station in Carlsbad, Calif. last year. The US Postal Service lost $2 billion last year despite raising prices and increasing traffic.

The US Postal Service lost $2 billion this spring despite increasing its volume and charging consumers more money to send mail, officials said Monday.

The loss for the spring quarter, which ended June 30, was significantly higher than the $740 million loss for the same three-month period last year. The agency blamed increases in compensation and benefit costs for the red ink and said it would be unable to make a congressionally mandated payment of $5.7 billion this September for health benefits for future retirees. The loss came despite a 2 percent increase in operating revenue compared to last spring.

"Due to continued losses and low levels of liquidity, we've been extremely conservative with our capital, spending only what is deemed essential to maintain existing infrastructure," said Joseph Corbett, the Postal Service's chief financial officer.

The Postal Service is an independent agency that receives no tax dollars for its day-to-day operations but is subject to congressional control. It has asked to end most Saturday deliveries, a request that is languishing in Congress amid opposition by postal unions. The agency also is seeking to eliminate the congressionally mandated $5.7 billion annual payment for future retiree health benefits.

Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, agrees that Congress should get rid of the 2006 mandated payment but says it would be "irresponsible to degrade services to Americans and their businesses" just as postal delivery is rebounding with the economy. Because more people are shopping online, "the Internet is now a net positive for USPS, auguring well for the future as e-commerce grows," Rolando said in a statement.

The Postal Service has defaulted before on federally mandated annual payments to cover expected health care costs for future retirees. Corbett said the agency also needs $10 billion to replace old vehicles, buy new package sorting equipment and make other infrastructure upgrades.

Other findings from the latest quarterly report compared to the same time period last year:

— Shipping and package revenue was up 6.6 percent, while standard mail revenue increased 5.1 percent. The increase was attributed both to higher volume and prices charged to consumers.

— First-Class mail volume declined by 1.4 percent, but revenue climbed 3.2 percent because of price increases.

— Operating revenue increased by $327 million to $16.5 billion.

— Operating expenses increased by $1.5 billion to $18.4 billion.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.