Whether the U.S. Postal Serviceâ€™s relationship with Amazon is as unprofitable as President Donald Trump thinks it is, thereâ€™s one group that -- judging from government jobs data -- has undoubtedly benefited: mail carriers.
For the most part, the advent of the internet has been a disaster for the postal service. With more Americans communicating electronically, physical mail has largely gone the way of the buggy whip. If the service depended entirely on first-class letters and the marketing junk that clutters our mailboxes, its business -- and employment -- would be in unmitigated decline:
But thereâ€™s a bright spot. The internet has enabled shopping on a vast scale. Amazon, the biggest U.S. online retailer, has seen its North American revenue rise from less than $10 billion in 2007 to more than $100 billion in 2017, with most of the gains coming in the past several years:
More online shopping means more packages -- and much-needed business for the postal service, which handles an estimated 40 percent of Amazonâ€™s deliveries. It moved about 5.7 billion packages in 2017, up 84 percent from 2011.
With the increased volume of deliveries, employment at the postal service stabilized and even rebounded a bit after a 15-year decline. As of March, the service had 606,800 employees, about 16,000 more than in 2014.
Amazon does a lot of its own sorting, relying on the postal service primarily for final delivery. So the employment effect has been greatest on mail carriers, who travel the â€ślast mile.â€ť
They numbered about 337,000 in May 2017 (the most recent data available from the Labor Department), up more than 31,000 from 2012. Carrying mail is solidly middle-class work. It might not be the occupation of the future. But in assessing Amazonâ€™s contribution to the economy, itâ€™s something a president who promised to create 25 million jobs shouldnâ€™t ignore.