Postage rates going up but not for most letters

First the bad news, postage rates are going up April 17. Now the good news, the basic 44-cent rate for first-class mail stays the same.

The Postal Service said Friday that mail price changes it announced last month have been approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission.

The 44-cent price of a first-class stamp won't change, but heavier letters will cost more. That basic rate covers the first ounce, and the price for each extra ounce will rise from 17 cents to 20 cents.

The increase comes under a formula that allows the agency to raise prices within the rate of inflation. That would permit an increase of 1.7 percent averaged over all mail.

The Postal Service lost $8.5 billion last year despite cuts of more than 100,000 jobs and other reductions in recent years.

The agency has lost considerable business to the Internet and the recession also cut sharply into its business.

Last summer the post office sought an increase that would have exceeded inflation, citing the unusual business conditions of the recession. That was rejected by the independent Postal Regulatory Commission.

The post office has appealed and, in the meantime, sought the increase approved Friday.

Its filing with the Postal Regulatory Commission also said the agency expects to raise rates annually in mid-April. The last rate increase was in May 2009.

Other decisions on rates included:

— Post cards will rise by a penny to 29 cents.

— Letters to Canada or Mexico increase to 80 cents, from 75 cents to Canada and 79 cents to Mexico.

— Letters to other international destinations will remain unchanged at 98 cents.

— Express Mail and Priority Mail prices are not affected.

— There will be a variety of price changes for other mailing services, including advertising mail, periodicals and packages.

The Postal Service does not receive tax dollars for its operations.