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U.S. Postal Service

Headquarters: 475 L'Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, DC 20260
Phone: 202-268-2000
Full-time Employees: 583,908
Postmaster General: Patrick Donahoe

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The U.S. Postal Service is an independent agency of the Executive branch responsible for delivering mail across the country everyday of the week except Sunday.

The USPS provides services through over 32,000 Post Offices, stations, branches, contract postal units, its website, and a large network of consignees. There are 528 processing facilities operated by USPS.

Postal service revenues come entirely from customers and not from the federal government. The price of a first-class stamp increased by 2 cents to 44 cents on May 11, 2009. The Postal Service sought another increase to go into effect next year but was denied by the Postal Regulatory Commission.

In fiscal 2010, the Postal Service reported revenues of $67.0 billion, down from $68.0 billion a year earlier, and a loss of $8.5 billion for the year. A majority of this loss - $5.5 billion - was a payment required to fund retiree health benefits.

The USPS processed 170.5 billion pieces of mail in fiscal 2010 -- including letters, cards, periodicals, ads, bills, payments, and packages. This number was down 3.5% from the previous year.

The USPS operates the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the world with more than 215,000 vehicles driving more than 1.2 billion miles each year and using nearly 121 million gallons of fuel. When fuel costs increase one penny, costs increase $8 million for the Postal Service.

The agency has reduced 39,000 career positions over the past year through departures and early retirement.

The USPS has warned of several thousand post office closings to cut costs and also predicts mail volume to continue dropping over the next 10 years. The agency is planning to reduce delivery from six days to five days per week this year.

The Postal Service is the second largest employer in the United States. It pays nearly $2 billion in employee salaries and benefits every two weeks.

The USPS reported total employees including temporary workers of 671,687. Total career employees were 583,908. Total headquarters employees were 11,356.

Most post office and processing positions are filled regionally. Written exams are required for full-time positions along with a physical and drug test.

Patrick Donahoe was sworn in as the 73rd Postmaster General on Jan. 14, 2011.


Three weeks after the battles of Lexington and Concord, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in May 1775 to plan for the defense of the colonies against British aggression and "to take into consideration the state of America." The conveyance of letters and intelligence was essential to the cause of liberty. A committee, chaired by Benjamin Franklin and including Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee, Philip Livingston, Thomas Lynch, and Thomas Willing, was named to consider the creation of a postal system.

The committee reported back to Congress on July 25, 1775. The Continental Congress agreed to the committee's recommendations on the following day, creating the position of Postmaster General, and naming Franklin to it. Richard Bache, Franklin's son-in-law, was named comptroller, and William Goddard was appointed surveyor.

Under Franklin and his immediate successors, the postal system mainly carried communications between Congress and the armies. Postmasters and post riders were exempt from military duties so service would not be interrupted.

Benjamin Franklin served as Postmaster General until November 7, 1776. He was in office when the Declaration of Independence created the United States in July 1776, making Franklin the first Postmaster General of the United States. America's present Postal Service descends from the system Franklin placed in operation.

In 1971, the Postal Reorganization Act changed the agency's name from the Post Office Department to the Postal Service. The Postmaster General was no longer a member of the President's cabinet.

The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act was signed by President Bush on December 20, 2006. This law divded postal services into two broad categories: market-dominant and competitive. Market-dominant services include, but are not limited to, First-Class Mail, Standard Mail, and Periodicals. Future rate increases for these services will be subject to a price cap based on the Consumer Price Index - All Urban Consumers (CPI-U). Competitive services, such as Priority Mail, Express Mail, Bulk Parcel Post, and Bulk International Mail will have greater flexibility for setting prices.


In addition to highly competitive basic pay rates, most Postal Service employees also receive regular salary increases, overtime pay, night shift differential, and Sunday premium pay. Overtime is paid at one and one-half times the applicable hourly rate for work in excess of 8 hours per day, or 40 hours within a workweek. Night shift differential is paid at a specified dollar rate for all hours worked between 6pm and 6am. Sunday premium is paid at 25 percent for work scheduled on Sunday.

Health Insurance
The Postal Service participates in the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program, which provides excellent coverage and flexibility with most of the cost paid by the Postal Service. There are many plans available, including both traditional insurance coverage and Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs). Employee premium contributions are not subject to most taxes, making health insurance even more affordable.

The Postal Service participates in the federal retirement program, which provides a defined benefit annuity at normal retirement age as well as disability coverage.

Thrift Savings Plan
Career postal employees may contribute to the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), which is similar to 401(k) retirement savings plans offered by private sector employers. Employees contribute to TSP on a tax-deferred basis, and may receive automatic and matching contributions (up to 5 percent of pay), after a waiting period, from the Postal Service.

Social Security and Medicare
Newly hired postal employees are covered under Social Security and Medicare.

Life Insurance
The Postal Service offers coverage through the Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) Program. The cost of basic coverage is fully paid by the Postal Service, with the option to purchase additional coverage through payroll deduction.

Flexible Spending Accounts
Career employees may participate in the Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) Program after one year of service. Tax-free FSA contributions can be used to cover most out-of-pocket health care and dependent care (day care) expenses.

The Postal Service offers a generous leave program to career employees that includes annual (vacation) leave and sick leave. For the first 3 years of service, full-time employees earn 13 days of annual leave per year, increasing to 20 days per year after 3 years of service, and to 26 days per year after 15 years of service. In addition, full- time employees earn 13 days of sick leave per year as insurance against loss of income due to illness or accident.

The Postal Service observes 10 holidays each year.

Updated January 24, 2011