Postal clerks bear the brunt of USPS downsizing


It’s no secret that there are a lot fewer postal workers than there used to be; the size of the agency’s total career workforce plunged 26 percent between 2000 and 2010, from about 787,500 to 583,900. But which crafts took the biggest hit? The agency’s inspector general put together some figures recently and found that a steep drop in the number of clerks accounted for almost two-thirds of that shrinkage.

From 2000 to 2010, the ranks of clerks—a category that also includes nurses and motor vehicle operators–nosedived from 291,494 to 164,581. By itself, that’s a 44 percent tumble. Do a little more math and you’ll see that clerks absorbed about 62 percent of the total job cuts in the USPS career work force during that time.

The next two hardest-hit employee classes, though, may come as a surprise: The ranks of supervisors and managers fell 28 percent while a more nebulous category described as “headquarters/other” dropped 24 percent. The number of city carriers and mail handlers was down 20 percent, postmasters, 12 percent, and maintenance employees, 11 percent. The only craft to show an increase was that of rural carriers, which rose 17 percent. Anyone have any thoughts on why that was?


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  1. Rurals are on an evaluated system meaning we get paid for how much mail we deliver(i.e. the piece work system). Rurals are essentiallly self managed. Our substitute carriers receive no benefits and are not career employees.

  2. screwed again on

    The only craft to show an increase was that of rural carriers, which rose 17 percent. Anyone have any thoughts on why that was?

    Probably because they FINALLY hired subs for rural routes, these subs have NO benefits and their time worked DOES NOT count toward retirement! Did it for 8 years with NO BENEFITS. And that is a short time compared to some.

  3. coolonlinenamegoeshere on

    The number of households the USPS delivers to each year increases. And, although a rural route can absorb some of those new deliveries, there is a contractual limit to how large a rural route can get. Once it reaches that limit, it must be cut and typically a new route is created. Even though mail volume is decreasing, deliveries are still increasing yearly. Many of those new deliveries are on rural routes. Volume declines hit urban/city delivery territory harder because those routes are shorter and typically have more mail per delivery. Rural carriers typically are on routes with 50 plus miles whereas city routes are on average around 20 miles in length. The mail volume may go down on a rural route, but the route length does not change and with new deliveries route mileage increase. Therefore, rural routes whose routes are 50+ in length will not decrease in size if the volume goes down some. It’s complicated.

  4. coolonlinenamegoeshere on

    I should say “rural routes whose routes are 50+ in length will not decrease in size” as much as a city route whose route is based more on mail volume and not on mileage.

  5. That’s because every year there are another million more addresses in the delivery database and most of that delivery work is done by rural carriers in suburban and rural areas.

  6. The rural carriers are up because the Postal Service adds more than a million new delivery addresses a year, mostly in rural areas. Since 2000 the Postal Service has added over 14 million delivery points to its routes.

  7. America is still building homes and developing land that was farms and wilderness, but they are not adding more deliveries to the cities, it is just new tenants or vancant buildings. The rural mail carrier is the cheapest mode of delivery for the Post Office. Thank you to all of the Rural Mail Carriers who deliver to the far reaches of this great country.

  8. In our office, RCAs are used to help out on the clerk/city carrier side at a reduced pay rate(dual appointment?). That’s probably one reason Rural Carrier numbers have increased.

  9. Because more and more people move from the city to more rural areas. Hence the 1 million new deliver points added each year.

  10. City delivery has been boxed in. It reached the limits of growth 20 years ago, and due to increased automation the number of routes will continue to decline. Virgin delivery areas will be served by the less expensive options of rural carriers or highway contractors.

  11. There was an arbitration that froze the boundaries between City Carriers and Rural Carriers. 90% of the growth has been inside rural territory, therefore, an increase in Rural Carriers even with the 20%+ drop in mail volume. Since City Carriers territory is surrounded by rural delivery the only growth comes from converting single family residential to multi family residential or commercial use. Add the decline in mail volume means a decline in City Carriers.

  12. That’s easy. Management has reduced the PTF’s hours drastically and even in some cases sent the PTF’s home permanently. Management has back filled these positions with RCA’s. Because RCA’s are not career employees they basically get no benefits. PTF’s get all benenfits and make more money in most cases. So hire more RCA’s and cut clerk hours that’s how it’s done. I know this because at least in my state I have seen grievance awards to the APWU that are mind boggling. Huge payouts to clerks that had their hours cut because of RCA’s doing their work. In one instance I saw a huge payout where the Arbitrator even ruled that because the RCA’S were working so many hours not only did the Arbitrator give them a huge monetary settlement but they were brought back as Regulars and not PTF’s. For whatever reason the grievance settlements do not show up. Mangement continues to do this kind of stuff which in turn runs the numbers of the rural carrier craft up. That is why they do not have cuts in staffing and the clerks do. Management is messing with the welfare and lives of those employees and their families basically violating a law between the USPS and the APWU. For management to do this you must sell your soul to satan to mess with these employees lives when you know by the law it is wrong. KARMA, That is exactly what these settlements are KARMA BABY.

  13. Hi folks: Sean Reilly from FedLine here.
    Thanks to everyone who’s responded so far on the rural carrier issue; I’ve sure learned a lot.
    I’ve also asked the Postal Service for its explanation. Once I get a reply, I’ll add it to the post.


  14. Huge cost & employee reduction initiatives like DPS (delivery Point Sequencing – for letters). FSS ( automated Flat Sorting & Sequencing), vertical flat casing, and DUO (Delivey Unit Optimization) which consolidates routes from nearby delivery units to a single regional location, have not been as wide-spread in the “Rural” parts of America where the majority of low-density rural routes exist (not L-routes). These delivery initiatives (and extensive equipment costs) were initially engaged nationally in medium to large city areas and plants – where the deployment & technology change could eliminate large chunks of manual labor cost, and effect the biggest immediate cost-savings. Each machine must cost justify it’s purchase before deployment. The minimum savings required don’t always exist in many widely-dispersed small office or rural locations for the cost benifits to be realized. Although some suburban rural offices have been affected by these initiatives in operations abutting city delivery areas (usually those with a minimum of 10 or more routes), that is not so prevalent or true in “rural” areas where the route density and spacing is much further apart. By comparison there have been more total clerk, mail handler, & city carrier position losses (from automated mail processing, route consolidation, and plant closures – as well as by declining mail volume) than the total number of Rural Carrier positions in the whole US. Many Rural routes are still operating on mail Volume Factors generated from mail count volumes taken a year-and-a-half ago in Feb 2010 (or earlier), which can skew the routes “evaluated” hours upward, compared to today’s actual mail volumes. A quick look at most rural carriers actual daily work times compared to their paid evaluations reveals a lot. Rurals get credit for every “actual” evaluated delivery point on their route and the average volume from a year ago daily, compared to “possible” deliveries and “actual volume” for city routes daily. Every new expanding rural delivery area like the mid-Atlantic states and other places where home building and new growth is still taking place, gets increasing route credit for every new “mailbox” added daily to the route (regardless of daily volume). In city delivery, the regular carriers receive daily “cuts” , or “pivots” (additional mail & deliveries) from unstaffed routes (before “subs” are called in) to first insure the regular carrier’s daily workload is a minimum of 8 hours of work every day. There is usually only 1 sub for every 5 routes in city delivery, compared to rural routes which contractually require 1 for every regular route. There are other substantial differences between evaluated rural delivery, and daily adjusted city delivery. And the advantages vs disadvantages are many. It is true that rural delivery overall is more cost effective for the USPS, but in most cases rural carriers are not in areas where dismounting in urban environments and delivering mail ON FOOT door-to-door, or up several stories into skyscrapers takes place (or where a mounted delivery carrier could deliver). It is a much more expensive method of delivery and is by far the most prevalent form of mail delivey in the nation’s cities.

  15. Tracie Lin Hamilton on

    Seems to me the NALC should be investigating to be sure that the USPS is not circumventing the moratorium on contract routes by awarding deliveries to rural carriers.

  16. In my office we have 34 city routes and 9 rural, our rural routes get easily 2 to 3 times the volume as the city carriers and don’t complain one bit. The city carriers complain if they have 10 packages and more than 2 certified mail pieces. All us clerks know that there would be less of a problem if they converted all driving routes to rural routes. Our rural carriers work hard for their money and many of our city carriers do nothing buy whine and complain. If it weren’t for the fact it would violate zero tolerance and create a hostile work environment we’d by them some cheese and crackers.

    As for the clerk craft being hit hard, it has been. Due to automation there is always excessing going on at the plant level and the AO’s aren’t safe either. Last year at this time we were told that 4 clerks were being excessed, that number dropped to 3. So far, thanks to our new contract, no one has gone and if they do they can’t go more than 50 miles without proving it to the Union. I’m in a Level 21 office so our PTF’s will be converted to FTR in Aug. A couple of the senior clerks have expressed an interest in the NTFR positions if any are created so the new full time clerks can get a 40 hr job.

    As I mentioned before we have 34 city and 9 rural routes. We have only 15 clerks in the office. One at a station, 2 for Bulk mail so that leaves only 12 clerks for the window and distribution. With NS days, Prime Time , and 2 clerks on higher level we had only 3 clerks this morning to breakdown, sort mail, pass out the AFSM and S999 mail and do the accountable cage. A fourth came in at 7:45 for the window and a 5th at 8. I don’t think we got the carriers out the door until after 10 in some cases. Cutting clerk positions have not only hurt the clerk craft, but it also affects the carriers. Our FSS mail didn’t arrive until about 8:30. No idea where it was, but apparently the plant that runs it couldn’t get it to the plant that delivers our mail for either of our 2 truck. Cut us much more and carriers will only be getting mail 3 times a week since there aren’t enough of us to sort it.

  17. Can anyone explain, why there are rural routes in Washington DC. Why are there rural routes inside the Beltway, since there are NO RURAL areas there.

  18. Former PO employee on

    I used to work for the post office. I started out in a data entry center, which was phased out because the computer programming got good enough to read handwritting. Then I switched to a window/distribution clerk. At both positions I worked 12 hour shifts – 2 PM to 2 AM – 6 and 7 days a week. I once worked 7 weeks without a day off, and no, I wasn’t a regular.

    I figure that, with the rise of computers and e-mail, regular land delivered mail is going to be a thing of the past shortly. The machines do the sorting and organizing, all they need is someone to deliver the advertisements, which I was told are the bread and butter of the post office.

  19. It’s cheaper to deliver mail via a rural route whether it is a “real rural route” or a newer rural route in the suburbs. Rural carriers deliver more mail for less money.

  20. ditto on chrisk’s comments…i work in a level 21 office with 16 city routes and 17 rurals, thanks to DUR of three cities…we have 8 regular clerks and 2 PTF’s…we are told that we are overstaffed!at times we have three managers scratching their heads wondering how they can get two clerks to sort the mail for 4 cities….yes, we are overstaffed, ith non-productive workers–management. when our PM had to run the show alone ONE day, he complained he was doing the work of 3 people….welcome to our lives!!! we continually roll work for the next day, hence what i suggest for our new USPS motto….”doing yesterday’s work today” seems to be accurate on many levels.

  21. Retired City Carrier on

    Sure management size has decreased. There were too many of them. In LIC, NY you would have 2-4 managing one station. After carriers leave, they only have to manage 6 clerks. That’s good management to craft ration. The USPS was always top heavy in management having an average of 1 supervisor for 12 employees. Private sector is more like 1 supervisor for 19 employees. Also, remember a lot of supervisors were near retirement and they were offered $20,000 buy outs. Imagine, retire after 30+ years and they give you money to do it. Carriers got nothing. Clerks a few years ago got $15,000.

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