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Despite $5B loss, Postal Service sees improvement in 2013

Nov. 15, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe
Despite 'some excellent results' for the year, the Postal Service 'cannot overcome the limitations of our inflexible business model' without major legislative changes, Postmaster General Pat Donahoe said. (Colin Kelly / Staff)

The Postal Service recorded a net loss of $5 billion in fiscal 2013, but also booked its first revenue gain in five years, according to annual financial results released Friday.

For the year, total revenue rose from $65.2 billion in 2012 to $66 billion, in large part because growth in the package and shipping business outpaced the continuing slide in first class mail volume. During the same period, total mail volume dropped from 160 billion to 158 billion pieces. Expenses, including some $300 million for buyout incentives, fell from $67.6 billion to $67 billion.

For 2013, the bulk of the Postal Service’s losses stemmed from a legal obligation to pay $5.6 billion into a fund for future retiree health care. Although the cash-strapped agency defaulted on that payment — as it did for similar payments in 2011 and 2012 — it still had to carry that obligation on its books as a liability. That loss was partly offset by a favorable adjustment for worker’s compensation expenses. Apart from such paper transactions, the Postal Service’s operating loss amounted to $1 billion, compared with $2.4 billion in 2012.

Income from the fast-growing packages services business was up $923 million, or 8 percent, for the year, while standard mail revenue showed a 3 percent gain of $487 million. Taken together, that growth more than made up for the falloff in first-class mail revenue, which dropped $704 million, or 2.3 percent for the year.

Release of the final 2013 financial figures comes as USPS leaders continue to plead for congressional action on long-term restructuring legislation they said is needed to return the agency to long-term profitability. Despite “some excellent results” for the year, “we cannot overcome the limitations of our inflexible business model” without major legislative changes, Postmaster General Pat Donahoe said in a news release.

So far, however, neither the House nor Senate has approved a comprehensive overhaul.

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