The number of career employees decreased by only 25,409 in the 12 months leading up to June 2011, according to a USPS document released this week, versus 44,145 in the previous 12 months and 36,326 in the year before that. That means the annual net attrition rate declined from 7.0% to 4.3% in the course of a year.
Much of the slowing attrition rate occurred in the 151,385-employee “Clerks/Nurses” category, which lost 7,839 workers in the past year versus 23,368 the previous year. Attrition also slowed for mail handlers, whose ranks decreased by only 1,871 versus 4,576 in the previous period.
More than 20,000 USPS employees, mostly clerks and mail handlers, accepted a $15,000 early-retirement incentive in late 2009. Many postal employees have left comments on Dead Tree Edition and other Web sites indicating they are ready to retire if they are offered a package.
But as the Inspector General recently pointed out, the Postal Service's "current financial state" prevents it from offering such buyouts despite the long-term savings that would result. (See Postal Service Can No Longer Afford Money-Saving Tactics, Study Says.)
The ranks of city carriers declined 4.5% and of rural carriers declined 1.8% in the past 12 months; both decreases were in line with the previous year.
But the number of headquarters employees took a big hit because of a recent early-retirement incentive for administrative employees, decreasing 11.7% after increasing 5.8% the previous year. The ranks of supervisors and managers thinned by 8.5%, more than the 5.9% decline the previous year.
The use of casual employees has come back into favor. Their numbers rose 38% in the past 12 months after a 58% drop from mid-2008 to mid-2009.
With about 80% of the Postal Service’s costs going toward salaries and benefits, most USPS efficiency moves are focused on reducing the size of the workforce. In just three years, the number of career employees has declined by nearly 106,000, to a total of 563,492 in June.
Union contracts inhibit layoffs, and employees tend to make a career of the Postal Service – as evidenced by half of the workforce being 50 or older. That means attrition through retirements has been the largest source of employee downsizing.
- It's Good News, Bad News For USPS and Fed Retirees: "The long wait to receive full retirement pay is a stumbling block for efforts to downsize the U.S. Postal Service through attrition."
- Do We Really Need New Laws To Get More Postal Employees To Retire?: "What we probably need to do is bite the bullet one time and figure out how we’re going to retire people that are over 55 and have over 20 years of service," Congressman Darrell Issa said four months ago.
- How Does the Postal Service Discourage Early Retirement? Let Me Count the Ways: "In recent pension estimates for employees considering early retirement, USPS has been leaving out information about a significant benefit."