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Postal Service feels crunch

This week, it's not just job cuts and potential bankruptcy stressing out the U.S. Postal Service -- the organization is in the midst of its busiest two days of the year as holiday messages and gifts flood in.

The service expects to deliver 16.5 billion pieces of mail over the holiday season. Today alone, postal workers will process 600 million cards and letters. Monday, the service expected to deliver more packages than at any other point during the year.

That's about the amount of mail as the Monday before Christmas last year, when the Postal Service saw 800 million pieces enter its system, up 40 percent from the year before. The service will sell 2.5 billion holiday-themed Forever stamps over the season.

On the busiest day ever earlier this month, FedEx dealt with 17 million shipments. On an average day, the USPS deals with 551 million pieces of mail.

The Postal Service this year has said that it is planning a significant downsize, with hundreds of mail processing centers and thousands of post offices on the line starting in mid-May. The agency gets no tax money from the government but is subject to congressional oversight.

The service relies on sales of stamps, products and services to fund its operating budget. But the rise of email and the Internet, as well as competitors such as UPS and FedEx, has cut into snail mail's popularity.

The national Greeting Card Association said that 1.5 billion Christmas holiday cards will be sold this year, compared with 2.7 million in 1995. The same percentage of people -- 17 percent -- said they will either send an e-greeting or no message at all to family and friends.

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