WASHINGTON — The financially troubled Postal Service on Friday posted a net loss of $1.9 billion in the second quarter, the same amount the agency lost over the same period in 2013, postal officials said.
But the agency did report operating revenue of $16.7 billion, a $379 million increase over the same period last year. It was the third straight quarter the agency had posted an increase in revenue.
Postal officials admitted, however, that the increase in revenue as well as efforts to trim costs — like cutting back the hours at many post offices, reducing staff through attrition and consolidating about half of the service’s processing plants — were not enough to offset the agency’s massive debt.
According to a Government Accountability Office report, the Postal Service owes $99.8 billion in benefit payments to its current and retired workers, which includes $16.7 billion of congressionally mandated payments into a future retiree health care fund. A 2006 law requires the agency to fund in advance its future retirees’ health benefits, amounting to a $5 billion payment each year for 10 years.
The Postal Service has defaulted on the health care payments over the last three years, and postal officials have called on Congress to pass legislation that will help the agency reduce the burden of funding health care benefits in advance and overhaul its business model. Bills are pending in the House and Senate, though it is unclear whether Congress will pass legislation before the election.
“Without legislation our losses will increase in the coming years and we will likely be a significant burden on the taxpayers,” said Patrick R. Donahoe, the postmaster general.
Total mail volume at the post office continues to decline. It was 38.1 billion pieces for the quarter, which ended on March 31, down from 38.8 billion for the same period a year earlier, according to agency financial documents.
Revenue from first-class mail, which provides the majority of the revenue for the Postal Service, remained flat from the same period in 2013, at about $7.1 billion. The agency handled about 16 billion pieces of first-class mail, a decrease from 16.7 billion, about a 4.1 percent decline from the same time last year.
Standard mail, more commonly known as “junk mail,” saw a 4.3 percent increase in revenue, to $4.2 billion from $4 billion, over the same period last year. The amount of standard mail being shipped increased less than 1 percent to 19.3 billion pieces from 19.2 billion.
One bright spot for the agency continues to be its shipping and packaging business which is fueled by the growth of online shopping, Sunday deliveries in limited markets and aggressive marketing campaigns, postal officials said. The Postal Service shipped 986 million packages in the second quarter, up from 919 million over the same time last year, an increase to $3.3 billion from $3.1 billion in revenue.
The agency hopes to make shipping a larger part of its revenue stream as other forms of mail decline.
Last year, the agency signed an agreement with Amazon.com to deliver packages on Sunday in the New York and Los Angeles metro areas. On Thursday, Amazon and the Postal Service announced that would expand to 15 more areas, including Houston, New Orleans and Philadelphia.
Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, a postal union, said that given the rise in revenue from the Postal Service’s packaging business as well as the overall increase in operating profits, lawmakers should not make drastic changes to the way the agency operates, like ending mail delivery on Saturdays.
“Given these positive trends, it would be irresponsible to degrade services to the public, which would drive away mail — and revenue — and stop the postal turnaround in its tracks,” Mr. Rolando said. “Lawmakers shouldn’t dismantle a postal network that is profitable in meeting the needs of an evolving society.” .