US Trade Deficit Falls to Lowest Level in Five Months

Cargo cranes are seen at the Port of Tacoma in Tacoma, Wash., on Monday. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

(CN) – America’s trade gap with all countries fell 4.7% to a five-month low in September, while the closely watched deficit with China also edged down.

The difference between the goods and services the United States sells and buys from other countries dropped to $52.5 billion, compared to $55 billion in August. That marks the lowest overall deficit since April.

U.S. exports fell by 0.9% to $206 billion while imports decreased to $258.4 billion, a 1.7% drop. In addition, the country had its first petroleum surplus since 1978.

The goods deficit with China also ticked down 3.1% to $28 billion in September, as exports to Beijing fell by $1 billion to $9 billion and imports dropped by $1.9 billion to $37 billion, according to a Commerce Department report released Tuesday.

President Donald Trump has made closing the trade gap with China a top priority, saying the deficit is the result of bad deals by past administrations.

His trade war with Beijing has raged on for more than a year, as Trump has imposed tariffs on $360 billion in Chinese imports. China has retaliated with its own tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods including soybeans and pork.

The Trump administration is trying to close the first phase of a trade deal with China that is reportedly centered on U.S. claims of technology theft and unfair trade practices.

The deficit with China is down 13.4% through the first nine months of the year compared to the same time period last year, but it is still the largest gap the U.S. has with any individual country. The overall deficit with all countries is up 5.4% from the same time last year.

In other economic news, the Labor Department reported Tuesday that American employers advertised fewer job openings in September. Open jobs dropped to 7.02 million, down from 7.3 million the month before.

However, job openings still outnumber the roughly 5.8 million Americans listed as unemployed.

The number of overall hires in September stayed the same, at about 5.9 million.

The number of people quitting their jobs also held steady around 2.3%, or about 3.5 million. While worker departures can be difficult for employers, economists see them as a positive sign because most people who quit do so for higher-paying positions.

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