A worker pulls packages from a bin onto a conveyor belt at the U.S. Postal Service Processing And Distribution Center on Dec. 14, 2022 in San Francisco.

A worker pulls packages from a bin onto a conveyor belt at the U.S. Postal Service Processing And Distribution Center on Dec. 14, 2022 in San Francisco. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Mail and Package Volume Dipped During the 2022 Holiday Season, but USPS Delivered More Quickly

The Postal Service also sped up ballot delivery during the 2022 midterms.

The U.S. Postal Service saw an 11% dip in mail and package volume during its busy holiday season in 2022 compared to the previous year, but it successfully made its deliveries more quickly. 

USPS trumpeted the news after also boasting of a successful election season, announcing it delivered 54.4 million ballots during the 2022 midterm general elections and the Georgia runoff. It took the Postal Service less than two days on average to deliver ballots from voters to election officials and 99% of ballots made it to election offices within three days. All told, including the primaries, USPS delivered more than 105 million ballots in 2022. 

It immediately followed up that work with its busiest time of the year: between Nov. 26 and Dec. 30, the mailing agency accepted 11.7 billion mailpieces. That marked a decrease from the 13.2 billion letters and packages it took in during the same period in 2021. It took an average of 2.7 days to make its deliveries in that period, however, compared to 2.5 days during the more recent holiday season.

USPS attributed its success to a more stable workforce, having converted 41,000 part-time employees into career positions in 2022 and more than 100,000 since the start of 2021. That allowed the agency to hire just 20,000 seasonal employees, just half the total in the previous year. In early November, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced USPS had reduced its seasonal hire target from 28,000 to 20,000, a nearly 30% decrease. The Postal Service has also invested significantly in its infrastructure, including by boosting its daily package processing capacity to 60 million through the installation of 249 new sorting machines. 

Postal officials expected overall on-board staff would dip by around 5%, or more than 31,000 workers, for the 2022 holiday season, but said it was still better positioned than in years past. USPS faced a crisis in the 2020 holiday season when package volume soared by 40% and the high demand, paired with employee shortages exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, led to unprecedented delivery delays.

For its election work, USPS went to great lengths to ensure timely delivery of ballots. Postal management agreed to continue taking the same extraordinary measures it had in place in 2020 as part of a settlement agreement with the NAACP and Public Citizen. At post offices, supervisors were empowered to extend hours and deploy personnel to postmark ballots. Letter carriers were required to check every mailbox for outgoing mail, even if they had nothing to drop off in them. USPS made collections from blue drop boxes on the Sunday before Election Day, which it usually does not do, and sent them out by 10 a.m. on Monday. On the following Monday and Tuesday, facilities were required to take special trips to local boards of elections to drop off ballots. Local postmasters continued coordinating those drop offs until the last day each state accepted mail ballots.

Postal officials said in the runup to the midterms that they were reaping the rewards of their year-round dedicated election teams, improved relationships with election administrators and other initiatives. Even before the extraordinary measures went into effect, the Postal Service implemented trainings for field staff, daily “all clears” to ensure no ballots are left behind, log sheets for facilities to track election mail and a website for voters and election officials to report any problems. Its joint election task force, established with representatives from postal unions and associations, have ballot monitors and ambassadors who ensure the proper steps are being followed and that employees are aware of their responsibilities.

Amber McReynolds, a voting advocate and election administration expert who President Biden appointed to the USPS board of governors in 2021, noted USPS performed at a “very high level” during the election and said the results spoke for themselves. DeJoy added the Postal Service mirrored the success it largely achieved in 2020. 

“Once again, our entire Postal Service team has successfully delivered the nation’s ballots securely and on time,” DeJoy said. “The American people can continue to feel confident in using the U.S. mail to fulfill their democratic duty.”