Paul Sakuma/AP file photo

Postal Service Still Losing Money, But Less Than Anticipated

Agency loses $740 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2013.

The U.S. Postal Service posted yet another quarter of losses in the third quarter of fiscal 2013, ending the three-month period $740 million in the red.

But in a bit of positive news, this marks the third consecutive quarter in which the Postal Service performed better than it did in the same period in fiscal 2012. In fiscal 2012’s third quarter, USPS lost $5 billion. Still, the agency has lost $3.9 billion in the current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, 2012.

Agency officials said the latest losses were significantly less than expected, as USPS used “aggressive” actions to “contain costs and increase efficiency.” The Postal Service also benefited from a new discount rate for workers’ compensation.

USPS saw continued growth in its shipping and package business, with revenue in the sector up 8.8 percent in the period that spanned April 1 through June 30.  While the Postal Service’s largest money maker -- first-class mail -- continued its decline, USPS has advocated rising package revenue as a key to the agency’s future.

The Postal Service has pointed to the growth of e-commerce as an area where it can continue to develop new business, and Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe exempted packages from his plan to end Saturday delivery.

Overall, USPS brought in $16.2 billion in operating revenue in the third quarter, a 3.6 percent increase from the same time period last year. The first nine months of fiscal 2013 have seen a 1.3 percent increase in operating revenue compared to the same period in 2012. Losses, USPS said, were largely a result of the requirement to prefund retirees’ health benefits and to deliver mail six days per week.

USPS officials have incessantly called on Congress to pass legislation that would ease the agency’s financial burdens and allow it to continue to grow new business. Lawmakers have heeded the call, with four major proposals submitted in 2013 alone.

A House Republican plan recently cleared an oversight committee with no Democratic support, while a Senate plan was subsequently unveiled with bipartisan backing.

“We are encouraged that comprehensive postal reform legislation has started making its way through the legislative process in both the House and Senate,” Donahoe said in a statement.