The annual deficit reached 15.2%, the largest since 1945. The U.S. Capitol building in Washington.



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WASHINGTON—The U.S. budget deficit tripled in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, the Congressional Budget Office said Thursday, as the government battled a global pandemic that plunged the country into a recession.

The budget gap in the fiscal year 2020 widened to $3.1 trillion from $984 billion a year earlier, the nonpartisan CBO said. As a share of economic output, the annual deficit reached 15.2%, the largest since 1945, when the country was financing massive military operations to help end World War II.

A surge of federal spending to combat the coronavirus and cushion the U.S. economy, coupled with a drop-off in federal revenues amid widespread shutdowns and layoffs, contributed to the widening deficit this year.

Receipts totaled $3.4 trillion, a 1% decline from the previous year, with much of the drop occurring since March, when the virus began spreading across the country. Outlays hit $6.5 trillion, a 47% increase from last year, as the government ramped up spending on emergency loans for small businesses, enhanced jobless benefits and stimulus payments for American households.

U.S. federal debt is projected to exceed 100% of U.S. gross domestic product in the 2021 fiscal year. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib highlights three reasons why the U.S. is headed toward a milestone not seen since World War II. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg News (Originally published Sept. 2, 2020)

Write to Kate Davidson at kate.davidson@wsj.com

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