Washington The U.S. Postal Service has cut its staff by 25,000 this year as it struggles to reduce massive deficits, Postmaster General John Potter said Monday.
Postal employment is now below 635,000, Potter said, down from about 800,000 in 1999.
Thousands of carrier routes have also been eliminated as mail volume declines, he said.
“We have an infrastructure that, quite frankly, we cannot afford based on the income we’re receiving,” Potter said.
The agency still faces a potential $6.5 billion loss this year, Potter said, and even with increased borrowing and other changes it could finish the year with a $1.5 billion shortfall.
Postal rates went up last week by 2 cents to 44 cents for a first class stamp. That isn’t expected to be enough to offset the likely losses. Regular increases are limited to the rate of inflation the year before and officials feared a larger, emergency increase would result in even more declines in mail volume.
The post office is seeking permission from Congress to reschedule some of its contributions to a retiree health care fund, which would reduce spending this year by $2 billion.
However, Potter stressed that the main problem is the weak economy and the post office is “anxiously awaiting a turnaround.”
The post office was already working to cope with a decline in first-class mail as people turned to the Internet for personal communications as well as many financial transactions as the economic downtown caused advertisers to scale back, further cutting the mail stream.
The agency is expected to handle about 170 billion items this year, well below the peak of more than 210 billion, Potter said at a briefing at the Postal Forum, a convention for the mailing industry.