Chris Smith, right, hiring coordinator with the United States Postal Service, helps set up Christian Akouala of Portland on a laptop to apply for jobs with the USPS during a hiring event at the Portland Post Office on Wednesday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Chris Smith had U.S. Postal Service keychains, flyers, even a computer where potential mail carriers could get started on their job applications. He just needed the applicants themselves. Then Jeff Macmillan walked up to his table at the Forest Avenue post office, and Smith launched his spiel.

“It’s about $20 an hour,” said Smith. “It will probably go up, but it’s a great opportunity to get started.”

“OK,” said Macmillan, nodding.

Smith was manning this information booth Wednesday as part of a regional hiring event across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. The Postal Service has more than 1,000 open positions in the three states, from carriers to clerks, and the busy holiday season is approaching.

Portland Postmaster Patty Svoleantopoulos said the Forest Avenue location has only 21 of its 50 city carrier positions filled right now and has no substitute carriers for rural routes, which means many employees are working extra hours. She said the problem is widespread, although a USPS spokesperson did not say Wednesday how many openings are in Maine alone or respond to other questions about the staffing shortage.

“It’s been over the course of two years,” Svoleantopoulos said. “Our hiring started to slow down. We have a lot of competition, too. There’s ‘Help Wanted’ signs everywhere.”


Mainers in other parts of the state have reported delays and delivery issues in recent months. On Wednesday, customers in Portland weren’t voicing complaints about the holiday crunch, but then again, the season has barely begun.

Svoleantopoulos recommended that customers mail their holiday packages and cards as early as possible – “I’ve already starting shipping mine,” she said. But employees will do their best to make deliveries on time.

The Postal Service set a cutoff date of Dec. 17 for timely arrival before Dec. 25 in the lower 48 states, with tighter deadlines for Alaska, Hawaii and international destinations.

“We have a really good workforce,” she said. “They don’t want to see their customers not get their mail.”

Macmillan said he cannot work full-time because he is disabled, but he was interested in picking up some hours as a driver for rural routes. He talked to Smith about the application process, which involves a behavioral assessment and a background check.

“With Christmas coming up, I know they’ll be looking for help,” said Macmillan, 52. “It would give me some income.”


Alex Long also stopped by the table Wednesday. He applied for a clerk position in September and is still working his way through the hiring process. Long, 33, lives in Portland and works as a manager at a local grocery store. The pay would be an improvement, he said, but he also is interested in the stability. His grandfather was a longtime mail carrier on Cape Cod.

“It’s a career,” said Long. “It’s like a life job.”

Flyers on the table advertised pay ranging from $17.32 an hour (mail handler assistant) to $19.50 (rural carrier associate) to $27.52 (tractor-trailer operator). Smith and Svoleantopoulos emphasized the pension plan and other benefits. They attributed the staffing shortage to multiple factors: waves of retirements, the outdoor elements for carriers, the low unemployment rate. More information about open jobs at the Postal Service can be found as

Smith told interested people that he had part-time, full-time and career positions available.

“There is literally something for everyone,” he said.

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