The trade deficit for both goods and services grew to $481.3 billion in the first three quarters of the year, up 5.4 percent from the same period last year, according to data released by the Commerce Department. Total American exports fell by $7 billion from the previous year, while imports grew by $17.8 billion.
The trade deficit in goods for the first nine months also widened slightly from the previous year, as exports of American products fell by more than imports.
Economists have argued against the Trump administration’s focus on the trade deficit, saying the figure is a poor metric for measuring American well-being or the health of the economy. They say the trade deficit continues to rise largely because the United States is growing faster than other countries around the world, which boosts American purchases of foreign products and weighs on its sales abroad.