U.S. trade continued to improve in November, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Exports hit $159.7 billion, which set a new 27-month high. They were up $1.2 billion during the month. Although imports also rose to $198.0 billion, they increased by just $1.1 billion, which shrunk the trade deficit by about $111 million from October. The trend appears to be heading in the right direction.
Here's a chart showing some history, since 2008:
Most of the progress the U.S. has made in trade since the recession has been due to higher exports. They're up $20.7 billion year-over-year. Over that period, however, imports had risen even more, by $23.7 billion. So the trade deficit has widened compared to a year ago, by about $3 billion.
Still, trade appears to be steadily improving in recent months. As the chart shows, November was the third straight month the trade gap has declined. Its value of $38.3 billion for the month is also the smallest it has been since January.
Within exports, goods continue to drive the improvement. Services exported actually declined slightly in November. There was very little growth in that latter component of exports in 2010.
Of course, the same could be said for imports. Americans continue to more aggressively increase the amount of goods they purchase from overseas. Imports for services, on the other hand, barely increased last year. In fact, if looking at services only, you find the U.S. with a trade surplus of $12.9 billion. The nation's love of cheap goods from overseas drives the trade gap.