The U.S. Postal Service has seen the future and it looks even worse than expected just 17 months ago.
In a USPS-commissioned report released in March 2010, Boston Consulting Group predicted that total mail volume would slide from 177 billion pieces in 2009 to 150 billion pieces in 2020. But that mid-range forecast may have been overly rosy, according to updated numbers contained in a Government Accountability Office overview this week.
The Postal Service now expects mail volume to drop to 127 billion pieces by 2020, the overview says. Profitable first-class mail use will fall by half and standard mail volume will remain flat. Dire as those projections are, they “could prove optimistic if communications continue to move to digital technologies as quickly as in the recent past,” the GAO says. “These trends underscore the need for USPS’s business model to undergo fundamental changes to reduce personnel and network-related costs.”
By other yardsticks, the Postal Service will be a smaller organization in 2020 than it was in 1980. The total workforce–career and non-career–will be 425,000, compared to 667,000 back then, while the overall number of facilities will be 20200 versus about 39,500 back in 1980.