Nov. 15, 2011 at 3:52 PM ET
The U.S. Postal Service said Tuesday it lost $5.1 billion last year as a weak economy and increased Internet use drove down mail volume.
The bleak financial report for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 was not as high as the $10 billion in losses previously estimated. But that's because an annual payment of $5.5 billion the post office owed the federal government has been deferred to a later date.
Postal officials called the financial situation "dire." They say the Postal Service will not be able to make the $5.5 billion payment due this Friday due to low cash flow.
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has warned of a postal shutdown next year unless there is congressional action to address the agency's long-term money problems.
“The Postal Service can become profitable again if Congress passes comprehensive legislation to provide us with a more flexible business model so we can respond better to a changing marketplace,” said Donahoe in a statement. “To return to profitability we must reduce our annual costs by $20 billion by the end of 2015."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.