US Trade Deficit Widens as Imports and Exports See Biggest Monthly Decline on Record

Samantha McDonald

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The coronavirus pandemic has pushed United States imports and exports to their largest-ever monthly declines.

According to the Department of Commerce, imports for the month of April fell 13.7% to $200.7 billion, while exports dropped 20.5% to $151.3 billion — the biggest plunges since record-keeping started in 1992. The trade deficit that month continued to widen, expanding 16.7% to a seasonally adjusted $49.4 billion — up $7.1 billion from March’s revised $42.3 billion.

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Over the past few months, lockdowns associated with the COVID-19 outbreak, which originated in China in December, have crippled businesses and economies around the world. (The illness has led to more than 6.57 million infections and at least 387,600 deaths globally.) Widespread factory and store closures have subsequently led to major disruptions across international supply chains.

Separately, the United States’ trade deficit with China — two of the world’s largest economies — increased 52.9% to $26 billion in April from the prior month. Imports surged $11 billion to $35.2 billion, while exports rose $2.1 billion to $9.3 billion. Tensions between the two countries continue to run high amid the health crisis, particularly after the U.S. accused China of mishandling the outbreak and contributing to the global economic fallout. (The U.S. has been the hardest-hit country in the spread of the coronavirus.)

In the year to date, the U.S.’s goods and services shortfall decreased 13.4%, or $26 billion, from the same period in 2019. Imports slid 10.2%, or $105.8 billion, while exports sank 9.5%, or $79.8 billion. As workers return to factories, global trade is expected to pick up again, but experts have forecasted that levels will likely remain lower than pre-pandemic levels for some time.

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