By MARTIN CRUTSINGER and FATIMA HUSSEIN Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. last month posted its smallest monthly budget deficit in two years thanks to a rebounding economy that helped boost tax receipts, coupled with slower spending as some COVID relief programs ended.
The Treasury Department reported Wednesday that the December deficit of $21.3 billion was the smallest monthly deficit since a $13 billion shortfall in December 2019. That was before the COVID pandemic hit in in the U.S. and pushed millions of people out of work and sent the economy into a short but steep recession
For the first three months of this budget year, which began on Oct. 1, the government has recorded a deficit of $377.7 billion. That’s 30.1% below the shortfall run up during the same period a year ago when the government was still spending trillions of dollars to keep the economy from falling into an even deeper funk.
Many of those government support programs have now ended or are being tapped less as more people get back to work.
In the October-December period, government revenues were up 30.1% compared to the same period a year ago. Tax revenues from individuals and corporations were both up by solid amounts, reflecting an economy growing this year at the fastest pace since the mid- 1980s.
Government spending during that period rose by a much smaller 3.8% compared to the same period a year ago to $1.43 trillion. The government outlays and tax receipts, which totaled $1.05 trillion, were both records for the first three months of a budget year.
The December deficit of $21.3 billion compared to a deficit in December 2020 of $143.6 billion. There would have actually been a surplus last month if not for calendar quirks that required some government benefit payments for January to be paid in December.