That was a headline this week for a Bloomberg Businessweek article, in which a proposal from senators Tom Carper and Joe Lieberman was outlined that would reduce the USPS’ operating costs and modernize its “failed business model.” One of the ways Carper and Lieberman want to do this is by offering a large percentage of postal workers buyouts of up to $25,000 for early retirement.
The question of whether the government should even try to save the Postal Service is a topic for another day. What we want to address here is how many postal workers might be thinking of retiring, using workforce demographics data from EMSI’s Analyst. This is one of many neat ways to use employment numbers to inform a political debate.
And in this case, the data is overwhelming. The Postal Service, to no one’s surprise, has been bleeding jobs for years (see the chart above). But what’s striking is how old, on average, the postal workforce is across America.
A whopping 80.6% of postal workers — which includes mail carriers, service clerks, and mail sorters/processors — are between 45 and 64 years old, according to Quarterly Workforce Indicators data from the Census Bureau.
EMSI’s 2011.4 data shows the US with an estimated 522,000 postal jobs in 2011, a 23.4% decline from 2001. More than 183,000 of these jobs are held by workers aged 55 to 64. Just 3.3% of the workforce is aged 25 to 34.
New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Rhode Island have the highest concentration of postal workers in the US. Each is between 26% and 33% more concentrated, per capita, with postal jobs than the national average. Among this group, Rhode Island stands out in terms of its aging postal workforce — 89% are between 45 and 64. In D.C., on the other hand, 62% are 45 to 64.
So, if the government wants to pressure postal workers to retire, it has a potentially massive pool of workers in the US to target right away (at least 183,000). That pool could get even bigger over the next 10 years.