November Trade Deficit Figures Decrease by 5.4 Percent to Lowest Number Since 2017

This week, the United States Census Bureau released its “Advance Economic Indicators Report,” which showed a decrease in the international trade deficit. Numbers for international trade in goods recorded in October 2019 stood at $66.8 billion, while advanced figures fell to $63.2 billion in November, a drop of 5.4 percent. The latest figures for advance international trade in goods reflect a low that has not been seen since the latter part of 2017, when the numbers for August of that year were reported as $63.3 billion.

Revealing November’s advanced numbers for exports of goods, the agency showed a rise to $136.4 billion from $135.5 billion in October, an increase of $0.9 billion for the month. Reflecting a decrease in goods arriving into the U.S. from other nations, imports of goods fell to $199.6 billion in November from $202.3 billion in October—a difference of $2.7 billion.

In addition to the trade deficit for goods, the report included national estimates on figures reflecting end-of-month inventories for wholesale and retail. Wholesale inventories remained nearly unchanged with figures in November 2019 reported at $674.7 billion compared with October 2019 numbers that stood at $675 billion. In the retail segment, November 2019 inventories were reported at $661.9 billion, a decrease of 0.7 percent from October 2019, when figures were listed at $666.7 billion.

Throughout 2019, the United States took a number of steps to shift trade policies. These changes included the implementation of tariffs on goods imported from China, negotiations on the United States­–Mexico–Canada Agreement—a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement—and the removal of certain countries from special considerations, such as the exclusion of Turkey and India from the Generalized System of Preferences. Actions such as these led many manufacturers and retailers located in the U.S. to rush imports of goods ahead of tariff implementation dates or find alternative partners ahead of these changes.

Regarding the United States House of Representatives passage of the USMCA on Dec. 19, United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer released a statement regarding benefits that he foresees from the agreement, should it pass the Senate.

“The USMCA is expected to create between 176,000 and 589,000 new American jobs and substantially increase economic growth,” Lighthizer said in a press release. “The International Trade Commission’s analysis shows that USMCA will have a more positive impact on our economy, jobs and wages than any other U.S. trade agreement ever negotiated.”

The monthly “Advance Economic Indicators Report” for November was released Dec. 30. Full reports will be released next week covering U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services, and Manufacturers’ Shipments, Inventories on Jan. 7. The report reflecting Monthly Wholesale Trade: Sales and Inventories will be released Jan. 10.