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Letters will carry a little extra in May as stamps hit 44 cents

WASHINGTON - The post office will get an extra 2 cents' worth on letters mailed starting in May.

The U.S. Postal Service announced yesterday that the price of a first-class stamp will rise to 44 cents on May 11.

That gives plenty of time to stock up on Forever Stamps, which will continue to sell at the 42-cent rate until the increase occurs. They will remain valid regardless of rate increases.

"The Postal Service is not immune to rising costs which are affecting homes and businesses across America today," Postmaster General John Potter said. "Even with the increases, the Postal Service continues to offer some of the lowest postage prices in the world."

Postage rates go up annually in May, with the new prices announced in February. The overall change is tied to the rate of inflation in the year before.

Although the new 44-cent rate covers the first ounce of first-class mail, the price for each additional ounce will remain unchanged at 17 cents.

Postal officials estimate the increase will cost the average household $3 a year.

Buffeted by rising costs and declining mail volume, the Postal Service lost $2.8 billion last year.

The agency could have cited extraordinary circumstances and asked the independent Postal Regulatory Commission for larger increases, but officials felt that would only result in a greater decline in mail volume.

The post office has been cutting costs and reducing work hours and has asked Congress to ease requirements for advance funds for retiree benefits and to allow mail to be delivered five days a week instead of six.

Other changes taking effect May 11:

•The postcard stamp increases 1 cent to 28 cents.

•The first ounce of a large envelope increases 5 cents to 88 cents.

•The first ounce of a parcel increases 5 cents to $1.22.

•New international postcard and letter prices are, for one ounce, 75 cents to Canada, 79 cents to Mexico, and 98 cents elsewhere.

Most Postal Service shipping services prices were adjusted in January and will not change in May.

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