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USPS Productivity Rose 56% between 1971 and 1997
PostalMag.com report contradicts GAO report
June 4, 2001

(Dallas, TX) - A 2001 General Accounting Office (GAO) report that notes productivity at the U.S. Postal Service has increased only 11 percent over the last three decades is incorrect, according to research conducted by PostalWorkersOnline.com. PostalWorkersOnline.com found that productivity during the period 1971 and 1997 actually increased almost 56 percent, on par with private sector productivity gains. The incorrect GAO numbers have recently been used by direct mailers, politicians, news commentators (Robert Novak), and others to substantiate calls for postal reform. Many in the industry agree that some postal reforms are needed, but the use of the incorrect GAO numbers negates the many positive gains that postal employees and management have made since the postal reorganization in 1971.

The PostalWorkersOnline study found that the number of postal employees increased from 545,911 in 1971 to 765,000 in 1997, an increase of 40 percent. However, the number of pieces of mail delivered annually increased from 87 billion in 1971 to 190 billion in 1997, an increase of 118 percent. These figures show that in 1971 the average number of pieces of mail delivered per employee was 159,366 pieces. In 1997, the average number was 248,366 pieces per employee, an increase of almost 56 percent in productivity per employee.

It should also be noted that in 1971 the U.S. Postal Service received a public service subsidy of $844 million for a total taxpayer subsidy of 25 percent. The postal service does not currently receive a taxpayer subsidy - it is one of the few government agencies that is fully self-supporting.

"The GAO numbers just didn't add up", Tom Wakefield - president of PostalWorkersOnline.com, said in explaining the impetus for looking at the numbers again. In 1971, much of the mail sorting was done manually or by primitive letter sorting machines. In recent years, state-of-the-art letter and flat sorting machines have come online that can sort tens of thousands of letters per hour. In addition, new delivery points since 1987 have been required to have "drive out" delivery - meaning delivery to curbside boxes or cluster (centralized) box delivery. This method is generally about 50 percent more efficient than the old method of walking door to door. The 11 percent number from the GAO is totally irresponsible, Wakefield noted.


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