USPS still showing slight operating profit for FY 2013

Two months into the new fiscal year, despite warnings of doom and gloom, the US Postal Service is actually showing a slight profit- at least until you apply the political bookkeeping tricks required by the 2006 PAEA law.

Through the end of November the USPS had operating expenses of $11.3 billion, and revenue of $11.6 billion, resulting in an operating profit of $237 million. This despite a 3.6% decline in first class mail volume. Standard mail volume was also down 3.3% for the month of November, but year to date it’s still up by 6.4%. That number likely reflects the large number of political mailings in October that evaporated in November.

The USPS numbers show a sharp increase in shipping volume, but that’s mainly due to the reclassification of mail types. The bottom line shows overall mail volume in November was down 3.4% for the month, while it’s still up by 2.2% for the year to date.

As has been the case for the last few years, unfortunately, the slightly positive results are completely wiped out by a bookkeeping debit entry of almost a billion dollars for “future retiree health benefits”. The USPS hasn’t actually paid the Treasury that amount, and never will, but it’s required under PAEA to carry the charge on its books, allowing politicians on both sides of the aisle to wag their fingers at the supposedly “bankrupt” USPS. Like the “fiscal cliff” and the “debt ceiling” “crises”, the postal service’s immediate financial problems are entirely artificial, created by politicians to advance their political agendas.

Given how difficult it seems to be for Congress to avoid the artificial train wrecks it has already created for the economy, it doesn’t seem likely that it will be able to do much for the postal service beyond naming more post offices and installing more of those clever little countdown clocks on Congressional web sites.

USPS Preliminary Financial Results for November 2012 (pdf file).