Postal Ser­vice: Red ink for 11th year in row as mail slumps

Manteca Bulletin - - Nation -

WASHINGTON (AP) — The be­lea­guered U.S. Postal Ser­vice re­ported a fi­nan­cial loss Tues­day for the 11th straight year, cit­ing de­clin­ing mail vol­ume and costs of its pen­sion and health care obli­ga­tions even as it pre­dicted an­other strong hol­i­day sea­son of pack­age de­liv­er­ies.

It pleaded for more free­dom to raise stamp prices to help keep pace with con­sumer de­mand for ever-quicker de­liv­er­ies from on­line shop­ping.

With­out help, “our fi­nan­cial re­sults will con­tinue to de­te­ri­o­rate and likely at an ac­cel­er­ated rate,” said Post­mas­ter Gen­eral Me­gan J. Bren­nan. “We can­not gen­er­ate enough rev­enue or cut enough costs to pay all of our bills.”

The Postal Ser­vice re­ported a loss of $2.7 bil­lion for the fis­cal year that ended Sept. 30. That was bet­ter than a $5.6 bil­lion loss in the prior year but was mainly due to fluc­tu­a­tions in in­ter­est rates that re­duced work­ers’ com- pen­sa­tion ex­penses.

The 2017 loss came af­ter a dou­ble-digit in­crease in pack­age de­liv­ery was un­able to off­set drop-offs in let­ter mail, which makes up more than 70 per­cent of to­tal postal rev­enue. Mail vol­ume fell by roughly 5 bil­lion pieces, or 3.6 per­cent, as peo­ple in the dig­i­tal age rely more on email for on­line bill pay­ments.

Rev­enue came to $69.6 bil­lion, down from $71.5 bil­lion last year.

The Postal Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion will is­sue a de­ci­sion in the com­ing weeks that could give the Postal Ser­vice more flex­i­bil­ity to raise prices be­yond the rate of in­fla­tion, mark­ing the big­gest change in its pric­ing sys­tem in nearly a half-cen­tury. The com­mis­sion might limit how high prices could go, but the cost of a first-class stamp could jump. It’s not known by how much.

The price of a first-class stamp, now 49 cents, is slated to in­crease by one penny in Jan­uary be­cause of in­fla­tion.

The Postal Ser­vice, an in­de­pen­dent agency, is try­ing to stay fi­nan­cially afloat as it seeks to in­vest bil­lions in new de­liv­ery trucks to get pack­ages more nim­bly to Amer­i­can homes.

With the hol­i­day sea­son ap­proach­ing, Bren­nan said, the Postal Ser­vice added hours to in­clude early morn­ing and evening pack­age de­liv­er­ies and was ex­pand­ing ser­vice on Sun­days. More re­cently, it be­gan a pi­lot pro­gram this hol­i­day sea­son to pro­vide cheap next-day ser­vice with pack­ages de­liv­ered Sun­days to peo­ple’s homes.

“The Postal Ser­vice con­tin­ues to win e-com­merce cus­tomers, grow our pack­age de­liv­ery busi­ness and in­crease mar­ket share,” Bren­nan said, at­tribut­ing its strength in part to af­ford­able pric­ing com­pared to ri­vals UPS and FedEx. “No other ship­per de­liv­ers as many e-com­merce pack­ages to the home.”

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