Postal Rate Increases Through the Years

Yahoo Finance

Another year, another increase in the cost of a First-Class stamp.

According to reports released Wednesday, the U.S. Postal Service is planning to boost postage prices by three cents, to 49 cents, in January, in an effort to balance its books and fund its massive pension obligations. The agency, which is also dealing with a steep drop-off in volume thanks to email and other "new" communications technologies, said it expects to raise $2 billion in additional revenue from the price hikes, which will also impact postcards and international letter rates. The Postal Service still expects to lose $6 billion this year after posting a $16 billion loss in 2012.

“Of the options currently available to the Postal Service to align costs and revenues, increasing postage prices is a last resort that reflects extreme financial challenges,” wrote USPS Board of Governors Chairman Mickey Barnett in a letter Wednesday to customers announcing the change. “However, if these financial challenges were alleviated by the timely enactment of laws that close a $20 billion budget gap, the Postal Service would reconsider its pricing strategy. We are encouraged by the recent introduction of comprehensive postal reform legislation in Congress, and despite an uncertain legislative process, we are hopeful that legislation can be enacted this year.”

Short story: The Postal Service is in trouble. Big trouble. But if it seems like postal rate increases have been accelerating in recent years, it's not an illusion. In fact, stamp prices have gone up seven times in the last 10 years, well outpacing the 100-year average of just over five years between price changes. (Though, to be fair, a couple of decades-long stretches with no increases, and even a reduction at one point, in the late 19th and early 20th century do skew that average quite a bit. In reality, it has been closer to three years between price adjustments over time.)

Here's a look at the numbers, courtesy of the USPS:

Effective DatePostage in Cents (Per Ounce)
July 1, 18852
Nov. 2, 19173
July 1, 19192
July 6, 19323
Aug. 1, 19584
Jan. 7, 19635
Jan. 7, 19686
May 16, 19718
March 2, 197410
Dec. 31, 197513
May 29, 197815
March 22, 198118
Nov. 1, 198120
Feb. 17, 198522
April 3, 198825
Feb. 3, 199129
Jan. 1, 199532
Jan. 10, 199933
Jan. 7, 200134
June 30, 200237
Jan. 8, 200639
May 14, 200741
May 12, 200842
May 11, 200944
Jan. 22, 201245
Jan. 27, 201346

Source: U.S. Postal Service

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