Trade Deficit Up 3% in November As Full-Year Deficit Heads For $554B

January 05, 2018

By Jason Cooper, CPA Research Assistant

The US trade deficit rose another 3.3% to reach $50.5 billion in November 2017, up $1.6 billion from the $48.9 billion in October, a level not seen since January 2012. The goods deficit is on track to be one of the highest on record.

November imports of $250.7 billion, which includes goods and services imports, is up 2.4% on the October figure, and up 7.0% on the year earlier November imports figure.  With eleven months’ data for 2017 now published, US imports are running 6.7% ahead of the same period in 2016, indicating that 2017 could finish up with imports at $2.89 trillion, which would be a new record for US imports.

On a year-to-date basis, the US trade deficit (including goods and services) for the eleven months January through November came in at -$513.6 billion, up 11.6% on the same period in 2016. The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that the 2017 trade deficit is set to come in above -$553.7 billion this year, the highest since 2012.  That’s a huge figure but would not be an all-time record. The US trade deficit topped $700 billion in each of the four years from 2005 to 2008.

When you exclude services and look at goods alone, the picture looks worse. Our deficit in goods for the first eleven months of the year totaled -$737.4 billion, 7.2% worse than the year-earlier period. On current trends, we are on track for a 2017 goods deficit of -$806.5 billion, the fourth highest on record.  The goods deficit is more important than the services surplus, not only because it is more than twice as large, but also because goods create more jobs per dollar of trade than services, and the production of goods typically creates additional business in supporting services.

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