The United States Postal Service began on July 26, 1775 with Benjamin Franklin serving as the first postmaster general. Nearly 244 years later, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) remains, though much has changed. Evidence of the evolution of the post office can be seen in mail delivery itself. Since 1863, the mail has been delivered six days a week, but there was a brief threat in 2011 that Saturday delivery would be eliminated. Today, and ever since 2013, the USPS has added Sunday into the mail delivery schedule thanks to a package delivery deal with Amazon.
Stamps have also been a marker of change over time. The first postage stamps in 1847 were either five or 10 cents and carried the visages of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, respectively. Today a first class stamp is 55 cents and comes in a wide array of seasonal and historic design options, including fun options such as the first scratch-and-sniff stamps released in 2018.
There has also been a significant shift in the way mail is delivered since the dawn of the post office. Initially, horses were necessary to move the mail, later replaced by railroads. By 1920, the first transcontinental airmail route was in service. Today U.S. mail is delivered by ground with the help of trucks and postal vehicles and by air with the mutual cooperation of companies from the private sector. Just how many tires does the postal service go through, and what exactly is that agreement with the private sector? How much money did postage actually make for the post office last year, and what about all of those packages?
Stacker wanted to take a closer look at questions like these and at the postal service at large. As familiar as the USPS may be to daily life, there is still so much to learn. Using data provided from the USPS official website, Stacker has compiled this microscopic look into the U.S. Postal Service in 2018, solely using its numbers. How has the post office changed since the days of Postmaster General Benjamin Franklin? The answer is in the numbers.
You might also like: Top industries in every state
As of 2018, there were 31,324 retail post offices in the U.S. managed by the postal service. This represents a decrease from three years prior in 2015 when there had been 31,606 retail post offices. Online mail services have earned their own place on this list.
A whopping 838.7 million customers visited a retail U.S. post office in 2018. For comparison, the U.S. population was estimated to be 329.10 million that same year. This would average out to every U.S. citizen going to a post office roughly two and a half times.
All of those visits to the post office (see previous slide) resulted in $12.7 billion in retail revenue. If the post office was not government-run, this revenue would have earned a ranking as the 35th top retailer for 2018, behind AT&T and ahead of Gap.
Of the 634,447 total employees of the U.S. Postal Service, 497,157 were career employees in 2018. Career employees receive full employee benefits and privileges, such as health insurance and retirement.
Every two weeks in 2018, the postal service doled out $1.9 billion in salaries and benefits. Again, that statistic is not for the entire year—that is a payroll bill of $1.9 billion for every two weeks. By the end of the year, the postal service had paid $49.4 billion in salaries and benefits.
The almost 500,000 career employees of the U.S. Postal Service comprise seven different unions that have collective bargaining agreements with the USPS. The largest of these unions is the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), while the most rural of these unions is the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association (NRLCA).
In 2018 the U.S. Postal Service ordered 730 million rubber bands. According the USPS, that is the equivalent of 40,000 miles of rubber bands, which could wrap around Earth 1.6 times.
Nearly 37 million people submitted address changes to the U.S. Postal Service in 2018. Over 16 million of those address changes were submitted by internet.
The U.S. Postal Service boasts of a large corporate email system that delivers roughly 3.5 million emails to 222,000 email accounts daily. That number is just the legitimate emails that are transmitted. In a month, the USPS corporate email system also blocks 1.7 million email messages for being spam, 636,000 for content, and 10,000 for being malware.
If the postal service motto is hard to remember, that is because there is not one. In fact, there has never been a motto. Recently, however, certain postal workers might suggest the motto, “We deliver packages for Amazon until we drop dead.”
In 1963, the Zone Improvement Plan (aka ZIP) introduced ZIP codes to the United States. Today there are 42,000 ZIP codes with first numbers spanning from zero on the east coast to nine on the west coast. The first number represents the geographic area of the country, the middle two numbers represent regional areas, and the final two numbers represent specific post offices.
The military postal service is a child agency of the U.S. Postal Service that provides postal services to Department of Defense personnel and families. 76 countries are serviced by the military postal service, which has 387 land-based post offices and 283 floating post offices.
$204.6 million in revenue was brought in from 6.8 million passport applications accepted at post offices in 2018. Including other official passport acceptance sites and online applications, a total of nearly 19.2 million passport applications were accepted nationwide in the same year.
One of the most frequently used government websites, usps.com averaged about 6 million visitors a day which equalled 2.3 billion total visits in 2018. “USPS Tracking” was the most frequently visited page on usps.com bringing in 396 million visitors.
Not all of the 2.3 billion visits to the usps.com were just to track a package. Visits to the postal store on usps.com for stamps and retail brought in $301 million in online sales in 2018. The price of stamps increased from 50 cents to 55 cents on Jan. 27, 2019, so perhaps an even larger online sales revenue could be expected at the end of 2019.
The postal service handled 56.7 billion pieces of first class mail in 2018. That volume of first class mail alone brought in $25 billion in revenue. That is a lot of stamps.
Anyone who shipped a package from the USPS in 2018 was part of $21.5 billion in revenue that shipping and package service brought in for the postal service. When it comes to packages, the postal service works cooperatively with UPS and FedEx. These two private sector shipping companies will pay the USPS to take on some of their ground packages, and likewise, the USPS will pay the two companies to utilize their air transportation.
A company's operating revenue refers to the amount of revenue brought in from its primary business activities. As such, the operating revenue for the postal service includes mail and package delivery as well retail products and services. The 2018 annual operating revenue for the U.S. Postal Service was $70.6 billion
For the postal service customers who prefer to avoid counter service or waiting in long lines, 2,821 self-service kiosks are available around the country. The kiosks are usually found in the post office lobby and can assist with anything from dispensing stamps to mailing packages to looking up zip codes.
Self-service machines seem to be commonplace in grocery stores. The post office has its own option to avoid counter service; self-service kiosks. So far in 2019 the self-service kiosks in post offices have brought in $382.1 million in revenue.
Though the blue color was not standardized until 1971, the USPS had 143,000 blue collection boxes in service in 2018. If those boxes were to be placed side by side, the result would be 59 miles of blue boxes.
The number of postal service delivery routes has increased steadily since 2015 when the routes numbered less than 226,777. As of 2018, there were 231,843 total delivery routes servicing 158.6 million delivery points.
The USPS boasts one of the largest civilian fleets in the world. In 2018 the postal service utilized 232,372 vehicles to deliver mail and packages across the country. In the coming years, the new next generation postal vehicles promise greater safety features, ergonomics, and fuel efficiency.
The U.S. Postal Service overhead includes as many operating expenses as the next major company, but with the addition of… tires. Yes, in 2018 the postal service purchased 675,000 tires for the postal vehicles. This number does not include the tires that were already on the vehicles that needed no replacement.
In postal service speak, a delivery point is a single mailbox or location where mail is received. It differs from an address because a single address may have multiple mailboxes (multiple unit housing, for example.) In 2018, the number of delivery points grew to 158.6 million, which was 1.3 million more delivery points than the year prior.
The mail volume in 2018 was 146.4 billion pieces of mail. This number was the lowest for the post office in at least four years. Both 2015 and 2016 saw the mail volume at 154.3 billion pieces and 2017 gave way to 149.5 billion pieces of mail.
Though it is a federal agency, and there are more than 200 federal laws protecting U.S. mail, the postal service receives and uses no tax dollars for its operations. All operating expenses are derived from retail sales and services.
Traveling to and from the moon 5,861 times is roughly the same distance as the U.S. Postal Service traveled delivering mail in the fiscal year 2018. The USPS employees traveled 1.4 billion miles, a remarkable number whether or not the destination is the moon.