It’s official: Postal rates will increase 5.4%, effective Jan. 8.

The governors of the U.S. Postal Service agreed on Nov. 14 to officially accept the Postal Rate Commission’s Nov. 1 recommended increases.

Though this increase is the first since 2002, it’s unlikely that another four years will pass without another rate hike. The Postal Service is said to already be planning to file for another increase, to be implemented in 2007.

“The decision, although it was clearly expected, may be the first in a series of annual postal rate increases,” says Bob McLean, executive director of the Arlington, VA-based Mailers Council. “If Congress does not enact postal reform, these increases could go on for years to come.” McLean expects the USPS to file its next rate case as early as March 2006, with another mid-single-digit increase almost certain to be approved. The General Accountability Office (GAO) has warned the mailing community that this continued spiral of postal rate increases is likely to continue if reform is not enacted, he adds.

Among the rate hikes:

First-Class Letter (1 oz.): from $0.37 to $0.39

First-Class Letter (2 oz.): from $0.60 to $0.63

Priority Mail (1 lb.); from $3.85 to $4.05

Express Mail (0.5 lb.): from $13.65 to $14.40

Express Mail (2 lb.): from $17.85 to $18.80

“Targeted” Bulk Mail (five-digit presort, 9-oz. flat): from $0.54 to $0.57