U.S. mail volume, income still shrinking

WASHINGTON — The post office continues to founder in a sea of red ink.

The Postal Service said Thursday that it had a net loss of $1.9 billion as of March 31, halfway through its fiscal year.

The declines in mail caused by the recession and the movement of letters and bills to the Internet has had a staggering impact on the agency, which posted a $3.8 billion loss last year.

Postal officials have sought congressional approval to drop mail deliveries on Saturdays and for relief from an annual payment of more than $5 billion to pay in advance for retiree health benefits.

At the same time, it has sought other savings and cut its staff by 47,000 to a total of 594,000. That full-time staff number is down by 120,000 since 2008.

"We are still experiencing unsustainable losses," said chief financial officer Joseph Corbett. "Quite simply, the business model is broken and laws, regulations and contracts must be changed to provide commercial operating flexibility needed for financial stability."

The post office said that for the three months that ended on March 31, total mail volume was 3.3 percent less than the same period last year.

Even with a one-time boost of $180 million from census mail, revenue at $16.7 billion was still 1.4 percent less than the same three-month period a year ago.

The post office is limited in the amount of rate increases it can generally seek, and it does not receive tax money for its operations.