Federal Deficit and Debt: September 2021

Every month the U.S. Treasury releases data on the federal budget, including the current deficit. The following contains budget data for September 2021, which was the final month of fiscal year (FY) 2021. Therefore, it also allows for an analysis of full-year data on the deficit, spending, and revenues.

Current Federal Deficit

The federal government ran a budget deficit in the first 11 months of fiscal year 2020
  • Federal Budget Deficit for September 2021: $62 billion
  • Federal Budget Deficit for September 2020: $125 billion

The deficit for September 2021 was $63 billion less than the deficit recorded in September 2020. That decrease in the deficit was primarily due to a 23 percent increase in revenues, which was partially offset by a 5 percent increase in outlays. The increase in federal revenues was primarily driven by higher income and payroll taxes associated with the current economic recovery.

Cumulative Federal Deficit

The federal government ran a budget deficit in the first 11 months of fiscal year 2020
  • Cumulative FY21 Deficit: $2,772 billion
  • Cumulative FY20 Deficit: $3,132 billion

Looking at full-year data, the FY21 deficit was $360 billion smaller than the FY20 deficit. The decrease in the deficit reflects a growth in revenues this year of $626 billion, partially offset by a $266 billion increase in spending.

The substantial growth in revenues was driven by the general strength of the economy over the past year, which has led to increases in individual and corporate income tax receipts. The growth in outlays is primarily due to the programs and policies implemented in response to the pandemic.

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

National Debt

The federal government ran a budget deficit in the first 11 months of fiscal year 2020
  • Debt Held by the Public at the end of September 2021: $22.3 trillion
  • Debt Held by the Public at the end of September 2020: $21.0 trillion

The $2.8 trillion deficit in FY21 resulted in a $1.3 trillion increase in debt held by the public, with Treasury financing the rest of the deficit by drawing down existing cash balances. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, debt held by the public has increased by more than 25 percent. 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.