Exports Hit A Record High, But The Trade Deficit Keeps Growing.

May 11, 2011

U.S. trade numbers for March came out today. A few striking points:

Exports rose to an all-time high.

Exports plunged during the recession, but they've been growing strongly for a couple years now, and are back above the pre-crash peak.

Growth is coming from a broad range of categories — everything from industrial machinery to corn to royalty payments. (When U.S. companies get royalty payments from overseas, it counts as part of exports.)

Exports are being helped along by a falling dollar. Rising exports allow for economic growth without relying too heavily on spending by U.S. consumers.

Exports for March were $173 billion .

But imports grew even faster.

Imports for March rose to $221 billion. The trade deficit — the gap between imports and exports — was $48 billion.

The two key drivers of the trade deficit: Oil and China. Crude oil accounted for $28 billion of the March trade deficit. Trade with China accounted for another $18.1 billion.

The trade deficit is a drag on economic growth, and a big contributor to the global economic imbalances that economists say are unsustainable in the long term. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.