Postal Service posts loss for seventh straight year

The ailing U.S. Postal Service lost $5 billion in fiscal 2013, putting it in the red for the seventh consecutive year.

There was some good news, however, as the postal service's losses declined from 2012.

Postal officials chalked that up to a rise in packaging revenue driven by online shopping. In all, postal revenues grew 8 percent in 2013 — the first revenue gain in five years — while expenses fell 11 percent.

USPS’s losses include a $5.6 billion default on a required prepayment for future retiree healthcare, a higher total than the agency’s overall losses.

Still, the agency also lost about $1 billion in delivering the mail, and the Postal Service noted Friday that first-class mail volume continues to decline — around 2.4 percent in 2013.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe also stressed that Congress must pass legislation that gives his agency more leeway to cut costs and increase revenues for the Postal Service to truly get on firmer financial footing.

USPS lost a record $15.9 billion last year, and has now lost around $26 billion over the last three years.

“We’ve achieved some excellent results for the year in terms of innovations, revenue gains and cost reductions, but without major legislative changes we cannot overcome the limitations of our inflexible business model,” Donahoe said in a statement. “Congress is moving forward with legislation that has the potential to give us greater flexibility and put us back on a firm financial footing, and we strongly encourage that they continue moving forward.” 

How quickly Congress will move is an open question, given that key lawmakers have been working on the issue for more than two years.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) pushed his latest proposal through his committee over the summer on a party-line vote. But the measure has yet to be scheduled for a full House vote, and Issa’s bill in the previous Congress never reached the chamber floor.

In the Senate, a bipartisan bill from leaders of the Homeland Security Committee — Sens. Tom CarperTom CarperGovernors-turned-senators meet to talk healthcare Overnight Healthcare: GOP'S repeal-only plan quickly collapses in Senate Dem leaders amp up calls for bipartisan ObamaCare fixes MORE (D-Del.) and Tom CoburnTom CoburnThe more complex the tax code, the more the wealthy benefit Congress, stop using our nation's military policy for political purposes Congress must rid itself of political 'pork' to preserve its integrity MORE (R-Okla.) — has seen delays amid concerns from red-state Democrats, among others.

Donahoe and postal brass praised the agency’s employees for what they called all-time high productivity, noting that work time dropped by 12 million hours in 2013 even as the service had more places to deliver to.

With legislation stalled on Capitol Hill, postal officials are also seeking new ways to raise revenues, noting that the agency has already reached its borrowing limit and does not have much flexibility.

USPS is pushing to raise stamp prices higher than the inflation rate, a move that large mailers are furiously lobbying against. The agency also struck a deal with the shipping giant Amazon to deliver the company’s packages on Sunday.

Donahoe backed down earlier this year after trying to end Saturday letter delivery, while still delivering packages six days a week.