WASHINGTON — In lackluster economic times, not even postal workers enjoy much of a security envelope.

WASHINGTON — In lackluster economic times, not even postal workers enjoy much of a security envelope.

Faced with losses that could near $1.5 billion this year, the U.S. Postal Service is offering early retirement — without incentives or bonuses — to thousands of clerks, mail handlers and supervisors.

The push to cut costs involves retirement offers to workers 50 and older who have 20 years of service and employees of any age who have 25 years of service. The agency began the fiscal year last Oct. 1 with 684,762 career employees, down from 696,138 a year earlier.

Anthony J. Vegliante, the Postal Service's vice president for human resources, said Wednesday that as many as 130,000 workers may be eligible for the offers, some of which are already in the mail. He declined, however, to predict how many would accept them.

"It's not about meeting a magic number," Vegliante said in a telephone interview. He said the strategy is more directed toward future growth, focusing on efficiency and taking advantage of new technologies and automation.