Postal jobs have long been a road to the middle-class for Black Americans. The Postal Service began employing Black workers shortly after the Civil War and became a major source of good, middle-class jobs for this share of the workforce in the early 20th century.

During the 1940s, civil rights advocacy, combined with wartime needs, created even more opportunities for Black postal workers. By the mid-1960s, their leadership had increased significantly, with the three biggest post offices in the country — New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles — all headed by Black postmasters. By the end of the 20th century, Black employees made up 21 percent of the U.S. postal workforce.

In 2022, Black workers made up 29.0 percent of the Postal Service workforce — more than double their 12.6 percent share of the total U.S. labor force. According to Institute for Policy Studies analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, postal workers have by far the highest median annual wage ($51,730) and the highest median hourly wage ($24.87) among the 10 occupations with the heaviest representation of Black workers.

Three of these 10 occupations have median hourly wages below $15 per hour. Of the 10 occupations with the largest shares of Black workers, USPS was the fifth-largest employer, with more than 600,000 employees.


Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wage data are from the May 2021 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates supplemental tables. Demographic data are from Current Population Survey for 2022. Total postal employees as of September 2022: 635,250.

Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project and co-edits at the Institute for Policy Studies. Follow her @SarahDAnderson1.

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