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As we have seen in recent rail data and in the FedEx data the “green shoots” appear questionable and recovery meager.   I received this excellent email from an employee in a very economically sensitive industry.  It’s a must read:
I work at the Post Office throwing parcels and have never seen mail volume so low. The situation is getting worse, not better.

Parcel volumes are down at least 30% and even the bulk mail is declining. I used to struggle to complete my job in 8 hours; now I easily finish my job and then go on to help my colleagues. Employees who leave are not replaced. No one is assigned to jobs in the event of illness or vacation. People just pick up the slack. Some large distribution centers are being closed and people transferred as far away as 100 miles.

There will be serious problems for all of the delivery companies if the low volumes persist and gas prices continue to escalate.

There seems to be no recovery in sight; mail volumes and work hours are plummeting.  Bulk mailers seem to have figured out a way to target their desired audience.  For us at the Post Office, that means that the circulars that used to go each address now only go to those with the greatest potential to buy.  Even a few months ago, one of our weekly bulk circulars would arrive on three, very-highly stacked pallets.  Now they arrive on two, wimpy pallets.  Circulars that continue to be delivered to every house are now very thin, with not many advertising inserts.  Upscale department stores have significantly cut back on their advertising.
We have totally eliminated our Sunday work force.  As a result, for awhile, there was a huge backlog on Monday from Sunday’s mail that sat in the distribution center.  Each truck came in 100% full, and some first class parcels were left behind for the last truck.  Now, even after eliminating one of the trucks, the mail easily fits in the trucks; it is rare to have a truck loaded 100%.

Previously unaffected areas of our work have also been affected.  Several months ago, the window service and the box section were relatively unaffected by the dwindling mail volumes.  Individual customers still came into the Post Office to mail their parcels, and businesses and individuals still rented P.O. boxes.  Now, the long lines at the customer windows have shriveled, and there are many, many closed P.O. boxes, especially long-standing business boxes.

The postal management is taking drastic steps to reduce costs and increase revenue.  Unlike UPS or Fed Ex, they don’t seem to be forecasting any upturn.  Perhaps they are parroting the feel-good “green sprouts” words at the Postmaster General level, but our state level management is not mouthing such clichés.  Our district policy seems to be “prepare for the worst” and “wait-and-see”.  At least, that’s what I am hearing through the unofficial grapevine.  Upper management appears very nervous.
A special thanks to reader Karen for this superb note.

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