USPS service performance data for 2020 shows improvement but not back to baseline

SteveBlog, Slideshow

The Postal Service has shared some weekly on-time service performance data with the plaintiffs in the Jones v. USPS case.

The data set provided by the Postal Service provides the most complete picture of on-time performance that we’ve seen since the mail delays became an issue earlier this summer.  The exhibit includes the average on-time performance for First Class Mail, Marketing Mail, and Periodicals, on a week-by-week basis, on a national, area, and district level, from the beginning of 2020 through the week of August 29.

Unfortunately, the Postal Service has not broken out the numbers in the same way that it does when it publishes the quarterly reports. In the Jones exhibit, the Postal Service has merged the numbers for Single-Piece First Class and Pre-Sort First Class, as well as mail with a 2-day standard and mail with a 3-5 day standard. This makes it impossible to compare the new data with the historical data. The new data report also does not contain the variance data the Postal Service includes with the quarterly reports; they show how much mail was late by one day, two days, and three.

Still, the performance scores in the Jones exhibit do give us some idea of how things have been going.

As the Postal Service reported in a recent press release, there’s been an “uptick” in performance as of August 29th: 88.04 percent on-time for First-Class Mail, 89.56 percent for Marketing Mail and 78.24 percent for Periodicals.

Those numbers are better than earlier in the summer but still well below targets. For Single-Piece First Class mail with a 2-day standard, the target is 96.5 percent and for 3-5 day mail, 95.25 percent. The numbers, however, are not far from what the Postal Service typically posts for First Class: about 92 percent for 2-day single-piece and 81 percent for 3-5 day, as seen in this PRC report, p. 4.

In any case, service performance is still not back to the baseline of where it was earlier this year, before the operational changes implemented by the Postal Service in early July started slowing the mail. Here’s a chart showing First Class mail since June. The improvement begins in mid-August, when the Postmaster General put a “pause” on the changes.

Most of the areas and districts show a similar drop and partial recovery. Here’s a table showing the average score for First Class mail, by area, of the baseline period before the operational changes went into effect and the period after the changes. The table also shows the week of August 8, which in almost every case was the low point for service performance, and the week of August 29, the most recent week for which the Postal Service has provided data.

As the table shows, during the baseline period before the operational changes went into effect (January to July), scores were about 6 or 7 percent higher than they were after the changes, and about ten percent higher than the low point in mid-July. As of the week of August 29th, the scores were still 2 to 5 percent below where they were before the operational changes. On a national level, the score of 88.04 during the week of August 29th was still 3.5 percent lower than in January 4 – July 1.

The data set for the districts shows similar numbers. As of the week of August 29, about 46 districts out of 67 were still scoring below 90 percent. The scores for two districts were especially low: the Capital District was on time only 78 percent of the time, and Baltimore had an on-time score of only 60 percent.

The Senate also requested weekly service reports, and it appears the Postal Service shared data similar to what it provided to the plaintiffs in Jones v USPS. The Minority Staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has prepared a detailed report about the weekly service reports, the internal USPS documents behind the delays, and the impacts of the delayed mail on small businesses and deliveries of medication. The Washington Post has an article today about the Senate report.

The Senate report contains a chart similar to the one above, but with the y-axis foreshortened, which makes the delays appear even worse. For some reason it identifies July 11 as the date when the Postmaster General ordered the operational changes, but it’s probable that this occurred earlier, and perhaps there were several orders behind the delay. Anyway, here’s the Senate graph:

We’re still waiting for the more complete performance reports that the Postal Regulator Commission requested on Sept. 3 in response to a request by yours truly. The Postal Service has asked the Commission to simplify the request or to provide more time. The Commission has yet to rule on that.

We’ve uploaded the original exhibit provided in Jones v. USPS here. The Postal Service provided the data in pdf format, so we’ve converted it to easier-to-use Excel sheets, which can be found on Google Drive here. The national data is here; the data broken out by area is here; the data for the districts is here; the district data for the week of August 29 is here.

—S. Hutkins, ed.

(Photo: USPS OIG report on delayed mail validation)