The trade gap in goods and services expanded 6.7% from May to a seasonally adjusted $75.7 billion, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Before the pandemic, the monthly trade deficit had hovered for years between $40 billion and $50 billion.
The trade report is another example of how American consumers and businesses have stepped up spending and investment as the economy has recovered to its pre-Covid-19 size, fueling demand for imports. Purchases from overseas climbed 2.1% in June to $283.4 billion, also a monthly record.
Exports have grown more slowly, reflecting weaker recoveries in some other regions that have made less progress against Covid-19. Exports rose in June by just 0.6% to $207.7 billion.
The trade data, and separate labor-market readings, come as the economic recovery faces risks from the Delta variant, supply-chain constraints and a shortage of available workers.
U.S. jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, fell slightly to 385,000 last week, a Labor Department report showed Thursday. New filings have settled this summer at a level that is nearly double the pre-pandemic average but well below earlier in the pandemic.
So far, business and government responses to the Delta variant aren’t triggering an increase in U.S. layoffs, according to the Labor Department report. The U.S. economy has experienced robust growth this year with the availability of vaccines, business re-openings, pent-up consumer demand and government aid. Economists say the Delta variant poses a risk, however, should it cause widespread disruptions.
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