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The Sad Little Bright Spot in the United States Postal Service's $5 Billion Loss The Sad Little Bright Spot in the United States Postal Service's $5 Bi...

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The Sad Little Bright Spot in the United States Postal Service's $5 Billion Loss

Deep in the red, the mail service is going rogue.

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U.S. Postal Service employee Arturo Lugo delivers an Express Mail package during his morning route on Feb. 6, 2013, in Los Angeles.(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

The revenue numbers are in for the United States Postal Service, and they are quite bleak. Over the past 12 months, the USPS has lost $5 billion. Amazingly, though, that number is far better than last year.

The USPS lost $15.9 billion in fiscal 2012, chiefly due to $11.1 billion in payments for retiree health benefits. Because of those payments though, that year was something of an outlier, with $5.1 billion in losses in 2011 and $8.5 billion in 2010.

 

If this wasn't already incredibly obvious, the way mail gets delivered in the United States is in need of a serious shake-up. For years, as NJ's Marina Koren wrote earlier this week, the USPS has pleaded with Congress to act to help its budget by ending Saturday delivery, decreasing retiree benefits, raising the price of postage, or taking some other actions.

There isn't much sign of that happening though, on account of this Congress still being this Congressalthough today's loss numbers could help. In the meantime, the USPS is going rogue. Earlier this week, it announced it had turned to Amazon for a deal to expand the company's Sunday package delivery.

The terms of that deal haven't been disclosed. But there is a bright spot for the USPS in Friday's report that shows why the deal could work. While mail volume has been declining for years, revenue from package delivery has been on the rise. In the past year, revenue rose 8 percent. Compare that with what's happened to the USPS' previous money-maker, first-class mail delivery. In 2007, that service added up to 92 billion pieces. In 2012, it was 69 billion. During that same period, package volume increased from 3.3 billion to 3.5 billion.

 

Things are pretty dire for the USPS right now, but moving to a more package-centric system, with help from private companies, could be a way forward.

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