(CN) — The U.S. trade deficit dropped for a second straight month in April, reaching its lowest level since September. However, even with the decline, the deficit is actually up 11.5 percent from a year ago, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.
In April the trade deficit dropped to $46.2 billion, down from $47.2 billion in March. The change reflects the fact export rose by 0.3 percent — to a record $211.2 billion — while imports declined 0.2 percent to $257.4 billion.
But while the U.S. ran a surplus in trade of services such as banking and tourism, it also ran a $22.1 billion deficit in the trade of goods — this despite President Donald Trump’s repeated statements that he will renegotiated “unfair” trade deals and protect U.S. markets through the imposition of new tariffs.
In recent months, Trump has focused most of his displeasure on this front on China and Mexico. He has proposed tariffs on up to $150 billion in Chinese imports to punish Beijing for forcing American companies to share technology in exchange for access to China’s market.
The president has also been trying to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico in an effort to shift more investment and auto production to the United States and away from Mexico.
Those talks are now at a standstill.
Meanwhile, the Commerce Department says, the deficit in goods trade with China is up 11.7 percent., and the gap in goods trade with Mexico is up 4.8 percent so far this year.
Through April, the trade deficit in goods and services with the rest of the world has risen to $201.8 billion from $181 billion the first four months of 2017.
In other economic news Wednesday, the Labor Department reported U.S. productivity grew at an annual rate of just 0.4 percent in the first quarter.
The weak showing was a revision downward from the 0.7 percent gain initially estimated a month ago.
At the same time, labor costs rose 2.9 percent, up from an initial estimate of a 2.7 percent gain in the first quarter, the department said.
The rise in productivity was only marginally better than the 0.3 percent increase in the fourth quarter but below the 2.6 percent third quarter increase.
Productivity, a key factor determining how fast the economy can grow and how much living standards can increase, has been anemic throughout the economic recovery. It increased just 1.3 percent for all of 2017.