WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Postal Service on Monday reported a net loss of $586 million this spring, a big improvement for the cash-strapped agency compared to a nearly $2 billion loss during the same period last year.
Postal officials said the loss was mitigated largely because interest rates, which are associated with worker' compensation expenses, swung in the agency's favor. Operating expenses outside the Postal Service's control dropped by $1.6 billion during the same period last year to $389 million this spring.
The Postal Service is an independent agency that receives no tax dollars for its day-to-day operations but is subject to congressional control.
The latest financial statement covers April through the end of June, a time period when the Postal Service says it typically experiences lower revenues.
Joseph Corbett, the Postal Service's chief financial officer, said increased package revenue and productivity gains weren't quite enough to offset inflation and a decline in mail volume, even though operating revenue of $16.5 billion was roughly the same as last spring and shipping and package revenue increased by 10.6 percent. He blamed increases in certain operating expenses, including wages, benefits and transportation.
"This underscores the need for a combination of continued sales growth, productivity gains and legislation to ensure the Postal Service can return to financial health and meet its public service obligations," he said in a statement.
Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said the results represent an impressive "turnaround continuing in full force."
The group cites the $1.2 billion in "controllable" net income for the first three-quarters of the year. Controllable income excludes certain factors including a requirement that the Postal Service prefund retiree health benefits.
The operating losses during the quarter aren't unusual, and "it doesn't change the fact that 2015 is turning into one of the USPS' most impressive annual performances since the Great Recession," he said in a statement.