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Postal Service feels economy's pinch, will combine routes

A precipitous drop in the volume of mail coursing through the U.S. Postal System will lead to consolidation of urban carrier routes, possibly affecting daily delivery times for millions.And your mailman may not be a familiar face.

“We’re facing the biggest decline since the Great Depression,” said Terry Penland, customer relations coordinator for the Postal Service in Kansas City.

The volume of mail in fiscal 2008 dropped more than 4.5 percent, or 9.5 billion pieces, which contributed to a $2.8 billion net loss. The Postal Service is an independent federal agency that is expected to operate like a business.

Postal officials cite the weakened economy as well as the growth of e-commerce and e-mail.

Just like retailers who depend on the holiday season, the Postal Service felt the squeeze this past season. It had projected about 20 billion pieces of mail being posted between Thanksgiving and Christmas but that fell about 1 billion short, said regional Postal Service spokesman Richard Watkins.

The Postal Service’s year-end review anticipates no economic recovery in 2009, with another drop of 8 billion pieces.

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