Apr 12, 2023 - Economy

Runaway stampflation: Postage expected to increase again

Data: USPS; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: USPS; Chart: Axios Visuals

The price of postage stamps is poised to increase in July for the second time this year — the 17th rate change since 2000 — under a new proposal by the Postal Service.

Why it matters: If the 3-cent increase is approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission, it would be the shortest time between increases in the Postal Service's history.

  • Rates last went up in January and before that in July 2022.
  • Between the 1970s and 2000, rates increased three to four times a decade.

Driving the news: The Postal Service said the proposed increases raise first class mail by approximately 5.4% to “offset the rise in inflation” and are needed “to address continued elevated inflation and prior years defective pricing model.”

  • Kevin Yoder, executive director of the advocacy group Keep US Posted and a former Republican congressman, said that each time rates go up, mail volumes go down.
  • Yoder said that after January's rate increase went into effect, mail volume immediately decreased nearly 9% year-over-year, while expenses increased by 16%.

Context: The number of pieces of mail handled by the post office has been on the decline in recent years as more people pay bills online and fewer send physical thank you cards.

  • In 2022, USPS handled 127.3 billion pieces of mail compared to the high of 213.1 billion in 2006, data shows.

Postage price proposed increases

Details: With the proposed rates, postage for a 1-ounce letter is 66 cents, up from 63 cents. A first-class stamp would be double the 1999 rate of 33 cents.

  • Metered 1-ounce letters would cost 63 cents, up from 60 cents.
  • Postcards sent domestically would be 51 cents, up from 48 cents.
  • International postcards and 1-ounce letters are $1.50, a 5-cent increase.

Meanwhile, the Postal Service said it is also "seeking price adjustments for Special Services products including Certified Mail, Post Office Box rental fees, money order fees and the cost to purchase insurance when mailing an item."

Stamp price increases in the future

What’s next: More price increases are expected as part of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's 10-year Delivering for America plan "to achieve financial sustainability."

  • "I believe we have been severely damaged by at least 10 years of a defective pricing model — which cannot be satisfied by one or two annual price increases — especially in this inflationary environment," DeJoy said at a Postal Service Board of Governors meeting last year.

Yes, but: "Rate hikes of this frequency are unprecedented and unsustainable," Yoder said in a statement to Axios.

  • "If left unchecked, DeJoy will plow ahead with additional stamp increases every few months, even though data shows that they put the squeeze on the American public and diminish mail volume," Yoder said.

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