Federal Deficit and Debt: January 2021

Every month the U.S. Treasury releases data on the federal budget, including the current deficit. The following contains budget data for January 2021, which was the fourth month of fiscal year (FY) 2021.

Current Federal Deficit

The federal government ran a budget deficit in the first 11 months of fiscal year 2020

  • Federal Budget Deficit for January 2021: $163 billion
  • Federal Budget Deficit for January 2020: $33 billion

The deficit for January 2021 was $130 billion larger than the deficit recorded in January 2020. In both years, certain payments were shifted out of January and into December because January 1 is a holiday. Other payments were shifted into January 2020 because February 1, 2020 of that year fell on a weekend. Without those shifts, the January 2021 deficit would have been $209 billion larger than the January 2020 deficit.

Cumulative Federal Deficit

Cumulative budget deficits have been larger in recent years

  • Cumulative FY21 Deficit Through January 2021: $736 billion
  • Cumulative Budget Deficit Over Same Period in FY20: $389 billion

The cumulative deficit for the first four months of FY21 was $347 billion larger than it was through the first four months of FY20. The increase in the cumulative deficit reflects a $356 billion increase in outlays that was only partially offset by a $9 billion increase in revenues.

Because February 1, 2020 fell on a weekend, certain payments were shifted into January 2020. Without those shifts, the deficit for the first four months of FY 2021 would have been $402 billion larger than it was during the first four months of FY 2020.

Spending to date is currently outpacing spending from the same period last fiscal year

Revenues to date are largely outpacing revenues from the same time last fiscal year

National Debt

The national debt is on an unsustainable path

  • Debt Held by the Public at the end of January 2021: $21.6 trillion
  • Debt Held by the Public at the end of January 2020: $17.2 trillion

The sizeable deficit in FY20 has pushed up the current amount of debt held by the public by 25 percent relative to a year ago. Eventually, once the situation has stabilized, policymakers should turn their focus to the country’s underlying fiscal situation.

What Does the Debt Mean for Our Future?

We all have a responsibility to build a brighter fiscal and economic future for the next generation.

National Debt Clock

See the latest numbers and learn more about the causes of our high and rising debt.