The U.S. Postal Service’s workforce reductions did not keep pace with declines in mail volume the past two years, but postal officials indicate that may change this fiscal year.
Mail volume was down 13% and revenue was down 9%, but the number of career employees declined only 6% in the fiscal year that ended September 30, postal officials revealed this week. The previous year, volume declined 4% while career employees decreased 3%.
Postal officials revealed their projections Wednesday that both mail volume and the number of career employees will decrease by 6%. Revenue is only projected to decline by 3%.
With labor constituting about 80% of the Postal Service's costs, it has been scrambling to reduce its workforce the past couple of years in light of decreasing mail volumes. As the economy shows signs of climbing out of the recession, the Postal Service's cost decreases this fiscal year might actually exceed its revenue reductions.
A lot of numbers have been flying out of L’Enfant Plaza (USPS HQ) and elsewhere this week regarding the Postal Service. Here’s a summary of some key ones:
• 20,150: Employees, as of Oct. 31 who accepted the early-retirement offer made in August. USPS had planned for up to 30,000 to accept. Please see What the Postal Service Left Out of the Early-Retirement Deal and The Postal Service's Early-Retirement Snafu for more information the offer and its flaws.
• 40,110: Decrease in career employees during the past fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30 – a reduction of : 6%. Of the major categories of career employees, the decreases ranged from 3% for those in or related to headquarters to 9% for supervisors and managers in the field and also for clerks. Postmasters were down 6%, mail handlers and city carriers each decreased 5%, and rural carriers and building and equipment maintenance personnel were down 2% each.
• 12%: Decrease in the number of career employees since 2005, ranging from 2% for headquarters to 20% for clerks.
• 13%: Decrease in the number of non-career employees in just the past year after several years of relatively steady levels.
• 53,000: Projected decrease in full-time equivalents this fiscal year. That suggests another big cut in work hours for non-career employees.
• 36: Number of deliveries per hour in FY2009, up from 30 four years ago. Delivery operations are a productivity bright spot for USPS: There were 8% fewer career carriers but 4% more delivery points than there were four years ago.
• 13%: Decrease in number of mail pieces last year – including drops of 8% for Periodicals, 9% for First Class, and 17% for Standard.
• 223: Increase in the number of post offices, stations, and branches during the past year. At 36,946 facilities, the total has decreased by less than 1% in the past four years.
• -0.3%: The likely change in the average monthly Consumer Price Index for 2009, which sets the ceiling for annual increases in most postal rates and is used in determining some cost-of-living pay increases. Even before release of the October CPI, which was lower than a year ago for the seventh month in a row, postal officials had aalready announced they would not increase most rates in 2010.
• 25% to 30%: Projected decrease in paper consumption for JC Penney catalogs next year as a result of discontinuing its “big books”. No word on how much less its postage bill will be, but the move can’t be good news for the Postal Service.
• 1,869,168: Number of October 26 issues of Newsweek that were mailed in the U.S., down at least 600,000 from a few months ago and more than 1 million from two years ago. As it has reduced its circulation this year to match its lower ratebase, the weekly magazine has cut back drastically on free copies and low-priced subscriptions, according to a statement it filed with USPS. And its annual postage bill has also decreased by millions of dollars.
• 34%: The increase in U.S. credit-card solicitations during October versus the previous month, according to Mintel Comperemedia. That’s the first significant monthly increase this year, though October levels were still lower than a year ago.