Postal Service hit with $1.3 billion loss

Days after unveiling plans to eliminate Saturday mail delivery for the first time in more than a century, the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service announced a loss of $1.3 billion for the first three months of fiscal 2013.

Typically the best quarter of the year because of holiday mail and shipping, the first quarter saw gains in shipping but a continued decline in mail volume compared to the same period in 2012.

“The encouraging results from our holiday mailing season cannot sustain us as we move deeper into the current fiscal year and face continuing financial challenges,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in announcing the results.

Earlier this week, Mr. Donahoe disclosed plans to eliminate Saturday home mail delivery while continuing shipping services, saying the move would save about $2 billion annually once implemented in August.

But the idea drew mixed reaction from congressional leaders and fierce criticism from labor unions, including one that demanded Mr. Donahoe’s resignation.

In a statement announcing the financial results Friday, Mr. Donahoe repeated a call for Congress to pass legislation to give postal officials more flexibility in how they operate, including resolving what he called the “overly aggressive” payment schedule to pre-fund retiree health benefits.

Sen. Tom Carper, Delaware Democrat and chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said in a statement that the financial results were no surprise given that the Postal Service had already defaulted on two payments to the U.S. Treasury and reached its $15 billion borrowing limit.

“It is critical that Congress works together to pass a bipartisan and comprehensive bill as soon as possible, and this news should underscore that sense of urgency,” he said.

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