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What is the Deficit?

Budget Deficit: The amount by which the government's total budget outlays exceeds its total receipts for a fiscal year. US Senate Budget Committee

Or, approximately, the federal deficit is the amount by which the federal debt increases in a single year. See Federal Debt.

 

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Recent Federal Budget Deficits

Fiscal Year Federal Outlays Federal Receipts Budget Deficit
2013$3.45 trillion$2.78 trillion$0.68 trillion
2014$3.50 trillion$3.02 trillion$0.48 trillion
2015$3.90 trillion$3.34 trillion$0.56 trillion
2016$4.10 trillion$3.57 trillion$0.53 trillion

Although the federal budget deficit is the amount each year by which federal outlays in the federal budget exceed federal receipts, the gross federal debt increases each year by substantially more than the amount of the deficit each year. That is because a substantial amount of federal borrowing is not counted in the budget. See here.

Deficit Charts   also: Spending Charts  Revenue Charts  Debt Charts  

 
Federal

Recent US Federal Deficits

in billions


Click chart for briefing on Federal Deficit.
For numbers and more click here.

in Percent GDP


Click chart for briefing on Federal Deficit.
For numbers and more click here.

The two charts show above show recent and budgeted deficits for the US federal government. On the left is a chart of the deficit in current dollars. On the right is a chart of the deficit as a percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

US Federal Deficits in the 20th Century


Click chart for briefing on Federal Deficit.
For numbers from 1900-2016 click here.


The two major peaks of the federal deficit in the 20th century occurred during World War I and World War II. Deficits increased steadily from the 1960s through the early 1990s, and then declined rapidly for the remainder of the 1990s. The federal deficit went over 10 percent of GDP in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008.

US Federal Deficits since the Founding


Click chart for briefing on Federal Deficit.
For numbers from 1792-2016 click here.

The United States government did not always run a deficit. In the 19th century the federal government typically only ran deficits during wartime or during financial crises. The government ran a deficit of 2 percent of GDP at the end of the war of 1812, and through the decade after the Panic of 1837 and culminating in the US - Mexican War of 1846-48. It ran a deficit of over 7 percent of GDP in the Civil War; and ran a deficit in the depressed 1890s.
In the 20th century the US ran a defict during World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, and in almost all years since 1960, during peace and war.


There’s much, much more:

  • Create CHARTS of government spending history here.
  • Look at TABLES of spending breakdown year-by-year for federal, state, and local here.
  • DOWNLOAD data for a single year here.
  • Take a TOUR of the website here.


What is the spending data; where is it from?

  • Federal spending data begins in 1792.
  • State and local spending data begins in 1902.
  • Spending data is from official government sources.
    Federal data since 1962 comes from the president’s budget.
    All other spending data comes from the US Census Bureau.
  • Gross Domestic Product data comes from measuringworth.com.

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Next Data Update

> State Finances FY13

> data update schedule.

Data Sources for 2010_2019:

Sources for 2010:

GDP, GO: See GDP, GO Sources
Federal: Fed. Budget: Hist. Tables 3.2, 5.1, 7.1
State and Local: State and Local Gov. Finances
Guesstimated” by projecting the latest change in reported spending forward to future years

Sources for 2019:

GDP, GO: See GDP, GO Sources
Federal: Fed. Budget: Hist. Tables 3.2, 5.1, 7.1
State and Local: State and Local Gov. Finances
Guesstimated” by projecting the latest change in reported spending forward to future years

> data sources for other years
> data update schedule.

Federal Deficit Announced for FY14

On October 13, 2014, the US Treasury reported in its Monthly Treasury Statement for September that the federal deficit for FY14 ending September 30 was $483 billion. Here are the numbers, including total receipts, total outlays, and deficit compared with the numbers projected in the FY 15 federal budget published in February 2014:

Federal Finances
FY14 Outcomes
Budget
billions
Outcome
billions
Receipts $3,002$3,021
Outlays$3,651$3,504
Deficit$649$483

usfederalbudget.us now shows the new numbers for total FY14 outlays and receipts on its Estimate vs. Actual page.

The Monthly Treasury Statement includes "Table 9. Summary of Receipts by Source, and Outlays by Function of the U.S. Government, September 2014 and Other Periods".   This table of outlays by function makes it possible for usgovernmentspending.com to estimate outlays by "subfunction" for FY2014 by factoring budgeted amounts by the difference between budgeted and actual "function" amounts where actual outlays by subfunction cannot be gleaned from the Monthly Treasury Statement.

Final detailed FY2014 numbers will not appear until the FY2016 federal budget is published in February 2015

Spend links

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