Peel it and weep: It will cost an extra 2 cents to mail a letter beginning Monday.

WASHINGTON — Peel it and weep: It will cost an extra 2 cents to mail a letter beginning Monday.

The price of a first-class stamp will climb to 44 cents, though people who planned ahead and stocked up on Forever stamps will still be paying the lower rate.

It's the third year in a row that rates have gone up in May under a new system that allows annual increases as long as they don't exceed the rate of inflation for the year before.

While the increase will bring in added income, the post office continues to struggle financially as more and more lucrative first-class mail is diverted to the Internet, and the recession discourages businesses from sending their usual volume of advertising.

The Postal Service, which does not get a taxpayer subsidy for its operations, lost $2.8 billion last year and is $2.3 billion in the hole just halfway through this year.