The federal government reported a rare surplus for January and is on track to run its smallest annual budget deficit since President Barack Obama took office.
The Treasury Department said Tuesday the government took in a surplus of $2.9 billion in January, helped by nearly $9 billion more in Social Security taxes. Last month Congress and the White House allowed a temporary cut in Social Security taxes to expire.
The monthly surplus was the first since September.
Through the first four months of the 2013 budget year, the deficit has grown $290.4 billion. That's nearly $60 billion lower than the same period a year ago.
Revenue through those four months is 12.4 percent higher compared with the same period last year, while spending has grown only 3.5 percent. The budget year began Oct. 1.
The Congressional Budget Office forecasts that the deficit will total $845 billion when the budget year ends Sept. 30. If correct, that would be first time the government has run an annual deficit below $1 trillion since 2008.
The deficit is the amount the government must borrow when its expenses exceed its revenue. Each month's deficit is volatile and can be affected by calendar quirks that shift government spending or revenue from one month to another.
The annual deficit is projected to be smaller this year because the government is collecting more revenue, mainly because of faster job growth and higher taxes. At the same time, the government is spending less on some programs. That's in part because the improved economy has reduced demand for unemployment benefits and some other government programs. -- AP