The U.S. Postal Service added more than 4,000 jobs in February, but the postal workforce is actually shrinking.
USPS’s payroll had 607,600 people in February, up 4,600 from January, according to data released by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday.
“The US Postal Service continues to lose money as it is bleeding cash,” responded Jon C. Ogg of 24/7 Wall St. “So can someone please manage to explain how the USPS added jobs at a time that Saturdays are being dumped for delivery days?”
Yes, I can explain: USPS hired the newbies to take up the slack from a massive wave of retirements. And perhaps to save money.
The Postal Service reports that it had 468,000 full-time employees in late
February, a decline of almost 35,000 (7%) in one year. Half of the loss occurred after Jan. 1, spurred by early-retirement incentives for APWU-represented employees.
More part-timers and temps
While the full-time workforce has been shrinking, the number of other employees (such as part-timers and temps) has been growing. In late February the number of non-full-timers had increased by 8,500, or more than 6%, in the previous 12 months.
USPS has made no secret of trying to reduce costs by gradually shifting more work to employees who are lower paid, have less expensive benefits, and can be scheduled flexibly depending upon the workload.
Here’s where the cost savings come in: Though the postal workforce has been shrinking, the workload has barely budged: So far this fiscal year, “total work hours” are down only 1% versus a year ago. As a result, overtime hours are up 18%.
So not only do the new hires start at the bottom of the scale, some of the work they accomplish would otherwise have to be done by more senior people at time-and-a-half rates.
And as for Ogg's question about Saturday delivery, ending that isn't a done deal. If it does come to fruition, cutbacks are more likely to affect the new hires than career employees who are protected by no-layoff clauses.