WASHINGTON - The U.S. budget deficit last month narrowed more than economists forecast from a year earlier as rising employment contributed to the strongest October revenue on record.
Spending exceeded receipts by $91.6 billion last month, compared with a $120 billion shortfall in October 2012, the U.S. Treasury Department said Wednesday in Washington. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 16 economists was for a $102 billion deficit last month. Monthly revenue jumped about 8 percent from a year earlier while outlays dropped 4.5 percent, the report showed.
October was marked by a partial government shutdown during the first half of the month and partisan wrangling over the federal debt ceiling, which was suspended Oct. 17, the day the Treasury had projected its borrowing authority would run out. The agreement to reopen operations created a House-Senate conference committee with a Dec. 13 deadline to offer ways to resolve the fiscal disputes between the parties.
“The government shutdown effect was small,” Mike Englund, chief economist at Action Economics LLC in Boulder, Colo., said before the budget numbers were released. Because federal workers were paid in full for the days they didn’t work, there wasn’t “a major outlay impact,” he said.
Wednesday’s report showed revenue increased to $198.9 billion last month from $184.3 billion in October 2012. Spending totaled $290.5 billion compared with $304.3 billion a year earlier, it showed.
Rising employment and a payroll tax increase are lifting receipts, while the across-the-board federal budget cuts known as sequestration combined with lower unemployment-benefit payments to keep spending in check.
The budget deficit of $680.3 billion in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30 was the smallest in five years, as employment gains and higher taxes propelled revenue to a record while spending fell by the most since the Eisenhower administration.
In the budget talks on Capitol Hill, millionaires who avoid payroll taxes by claiming income as business profits are among those in the Democrats’ sights. Limiting the ability of some business owners to use the S-corporation structure would save $12 billion over the next 10 years, according to a list of tax breaks obtained by Bloomberg News that Democrats say should be among those considered for elimination.
Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Budget Committee, has said a push to raise taxes will result in a stalemate. Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington who heads the Senate Budget Committee, has said that any agreement to trim Social Security and Medicare benefits must be tied to added revenue.
The bicameral conference-committee was holding a public meeting Wednesday.
Economic data from the period of the shutdown have been mixed. Employers last month added 204,000 workers, topping the most optimistic forecast in a survey of economists, the Labor Department said Nov. 8. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary consumer sentiment index for November dropped to 72, the weakest since December 2011, from 73.2 in October.
Traveling this week in Asia, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said he doubts whether U.S. lawmakers will want to go through another fiscal impasse like the one that occurred a month ago.
“It is, I think, very likely that we will not see that kind of a tactic again,” Lew told public broadcaster NHK in Tokyo Tuesday. “I take heart from the things that I’m told privately, and from the public statements, particularly from Republican leaders, who make it clear that they’ve learned a lesson and that they don’t want this to happen again.”
The Congressional Budget Office earlier Wednesday released a report outlining 103 options lawmakers can consider to cut spending or raise revenue in the next decade.
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