By HEATHER NELLIS
For the Express

Though the number of Americans using the U.S. Postal Service has dropped, the holiday season is still its busiest time of year.
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a total of 15.8 billion pieces of mail will be delivered, including about 3 million cards.
Local postmasters said they’re feeling the rush.
“We’re pretty busy, and it’s going to get even worse in the next two weeks,” said Broadalbin Postmaster Dan Pawlik. “It’s been pretty heavy — it doesn’t seem like the economy is making much of a difference.”
Pawlik said he thinks the numbers of customers have increased considerably the past couple of weeks, noticing extra parcels from merchandise ordered online.
Tribes Hill Postmaster Paul Sanges said the volume of customers is comparable to past years, though it seems like the rush started earlier this year.
“It was back in the last few weeks of November that I started noticing the increase in parcels coming through. It seems like every year, there’s more and more people ordering things online. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but I remember thinking it was early for a big rush of parcels,” he said.
The service is predicting Dec. 20 will be its busiest day of the year nationally, when it expects to postmark more than 800 million cards and letters.
“An average Monday, by contrast, is about 570 million postmarks applied,” said USPS spokeswoman Maureen Marion.
Still, Marion said there’s a noticeable change in the number of people using the system.
In 2005, she said, the busiest night of the year was projected at 900 million pieces, and the service handled 211.7 billion pieces of mail that year.
“Mail volume in fiscal year 2010 (ending Sept. 30) dipped to 170 billion,” she said. “Factors in that include the lingering effects of the recession, changes in technology and even the price of paper, which has bumped up the costs of catalog production. Holiday cards follow the trend.”
In 2009, the Albany distribution office — the region’s sorting and postmarking hub — postmarked 1.1 million cards and letters on Dec. 21.
Supervisors at the Amsterdam post office on Church Street referred all questions to Marion, who said she did not have local geographic information.