The U.S. Postal Service said Friday it is offering buyouts to almost all of its 45,000 career mail handlers, the first of an expected wave of efforts by the agency to thin its workforce.

In an announcement on its Web site, the mail handlers union wrote, “The agreement with the Postal Service is intended to provide a financial cushion, an added peace of mind, for mail handlers who might be prepared to move on to the next chapter of their lives by leaving the Postal Service – a decision that could be particularly trying during these difficult economic times.”

The postal service also announced plans this month to cut hours at 13,000 rural post offices, some drastically, in an effort to keep open thousands of retail operations it had planned to shutter. Postal officials are offering buyouts to about 21,000 postmasters.

The financially troubled agency is expected to lose $14 billion this year.

Related: Postal Service bill: House leaders set to vote after July Fourth.