The U.S. budget deficit unexpectedly increased in November, to $172 billion for the month — pushing the country one step closer to the limit on government borrowing.
The Treasury said Wednesday the deficit last month was $22 billion more than the October mark and up from $137 billion in November 2011.
The numbers paint a gloomy picture of the country’s fiscal health and could complicate already delicate negotiations in Washington over tax rates and spending cuts with a deadline looming to to avert a fiscal crisis.
The Treasury said the unexpired jump was the result of a calendar quirk that pulled into November about $33 billion in benefits payments slated for December.
The new number could puts the country on pace to notch its fifth-straight annual deficit over $1 trillion. The government finished the 2012 budget year, which ends Sept. 30, with a deficit of $1.1 trillion.