The U.S. government budget deficit fell 9 percent in November to $137.30 billion from a year-earlier level of $150.39 billion, the Treasury Department reported on Monday.
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The monthly U.S. budget deficit, while still high by historical standards, was slightly below the $139 billion gap that economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast.
Federal spending was lower and tax receipts were slightly higher last month than in November 2010, the Treasury data showed.
The cumulative deficit for the fiscal year that began in October stands at $235.77 billion compared with a $290.83 billion in the same period last year.
Spending has been somewhat lower in the current fiscal year partly because some government payments normally made in October were shifted into September.
In fiscal 2011, which ended Sept. 30, the budget deficit totaled $1.296 trillion, the third straight year the U.S. shortfall surpassed $1 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office expects the deficit to narrow only marginally in the current fiscal year.
The burgeoning U.S. debt load has become a hot-button political topic heading into elections next year. November's deficit market the 38th straight monthly shortfall, the Treasury said.
A congressional panel created to find $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts abandoned its effort late last month.
Democrats blamed Republicans for shielding the wealthy from tax hikes, while Republicans said Democrats were unwilling to consider overhauling healthcare programs that threaten to swamp the budget.
Now, automatic spending cuts to defense and domestic program are due to take hold in 2013, although some Republicans have vowed to prevent them from hitting the military.
During November, total government outlays declined to $289.70 billion from $299.36 billion a year earlier.
Receipts, primarily from income taxes, rose to $152.40 billion last month from $148.97 billion in November 2010.