Federal Deficit and Debt: October 2020

Every month the U.S. Treasury releases data on the federal budget, including the current deficit. The following contains budget data for October 2020, which was the first 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 October 2020: $284 billion
  • Federal Budget Deficit for October 2019: $134 billion

The deficit for October 2020 was $150 billion larger than the deficit recorded in October 2019. Last month’s deficit was affected by shifts in the timing of certain federal payments into October because November 1st fell on a weekend. Without those shifts, the October 2020 deficit would have been just $96 billion larger than the deficit recorded last October. The deficit varies from month to month and some months may even record a surplus — for example, when taxpayers are submitting their personal income taxes at the filing deadline.

Cumulative Federal Deficit

Cumulative budget deficits have been larger in recent years

  • Cumulative Deficit Projected for FY21: $1,810 billion
  • Cumulative FY20 Deficit: $3,132 billion

The Congressional Budget Office anticipates that the federal deficit for this fiscal year will decline relative to last year’s total, but will be the second largest ever recorded (in dollar terms). The deficit in FY20 was the largest on record because of the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and legislation enacted to respond to it.

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 October 2020: $21.1 trillion
  • Debt Held by the Public through October 2019: $17.0 trillion

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

Understanding the Coronavirus Crisis

Key fiscal and economic indicators as the nation responds and recovers.

National Debt Clock

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