Budget Deficit in U.S. Narrows in February as Hiring Strengthens

The budget deficit in the U.S. narrowed in February from a year earlier as a stronger economy helps improve the nation’s fiscal position, Treasury Department figures showed.

Spending exceeded revenue by $192.3 billion last month, compared with a $193.5 billion deficit in the same month the prior year, the department said in a report released today in Washington. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 21 economists was for a $191 billion deficit.

The U.S. deficit has been shrinking in recent years as the economy strengthens, hiring picks up and company profits improve. The Congressional Budget Office earlier this week predicted the deficit as a share of gross domestic product this year will be the lowest since 2007.

“Our deficit, which has fallen by almost three-quarters, is forecast to decline even further in the next fiscal year,” Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in prepared congressional testimony this month, counting that among achievements that “underscore America’s enduring economic strength.”

Employers added 295,000 workers to payrolls in February as the unemployment rate fell to an almost seven-year low of 5.5 percent, a Labor Department report showed last week. The jobless rate is now at the range that Fed policy makers view as full employment.

For the first five months of the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, the country ran a $386.5 billion deficit, compared with $376.4 billion from October 2013 through February 2014, according to the report.

Revenue in February was $139.4 billion, down 3.4 percent from a year earlier, while outlays fell 1.8 percent to $331.7 billion, the report showed. In the first five months of the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, revenue is up 7.1 percent from the same period a year earlier.

The federal budget deficit is projected to total $486 billion in fiscal year 2015, the CBO estimated on Monday. That’s 2.7 percent of GDP, down from 2.8 percent last year and 9.8 percent in 2009.

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