The U.S. trade deficit soared to a record last year.

The widening deficit was driven by a $576.5 billion increase in imports last year, as Americans purchased more products made abroad.

The U.S. trade deficit in goods soared to record levels in 2021, topping $1 trillion as Americans continued to spend heavily on computers, toys, bicycles, clothing, pharmaceuticals, and other goods made in foreign factories during the pandemic.

The overall trade deficit in both goods and services also hit an annual record, rising 27 percent as the country’s imports far outpaced its exports, according to data released by the Commerce Department on Tuesday.

The widening deficit — which climbed to $859.1 billion from $678.7 billion the previous year — was a reflection of a highly unusual pandemic economy. Americans, sheltering at home from the coronavirus and with savings swelled by government relief packages, slashed their spending on travel, restaurants, and movies and splurged on furniture, electronics, and other goods instead.

It is also the latest sign of how dependent the United States remains on other countries, particularly China, for the things that consumers want to buy.

While both President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump have talked about reviving American manufacturing, the United States continues to be deeply reliant on factories in China and other low-cost countries to produce a vast array of consumer goods.

Imports surged by $576.5 billion, or 20.5 percent, last year, as both the quantity and the price of the foreign products that Americans purchased increased.

Exports grew 18.5 percent, or by $394.1 billion. Demand for foreign goods was so strong that it snarled global supply chains and clogged American ports, in some cases making it difficult for exporters to get their products out of the country.

The slowdown in demand during the pandemic for services, usually a strength for the American economy, also pushed up the trade deficit, as foreigners drastically reduced their spending on tourism in the United States. The United States typically records a large trade surplus in services, which is subtracted from the overall deficit. Last year, the trade surplus fell 5.6 percent to $231.5 billion.

For the month of December, the goods and services deficit rose 1.8. percent to $80.7 billion.

The ballooning trade deficit subtracted more than a percentage point from economic growth figures last year, more than it has in decades. And both Republicans and Democrats appeared likely to seize on the number to criticize the government for failing to curb America’s dependence on foreign goods.

Economists argue that the imbalances reflected in a large trade deficit can be related to a variety of economic issues, from fewer manufacturing jobs and unsustainable debt loads to financial bubbles.

“It’s devastating,” said Robert E. Scott, the director of trade and manufacturing policy research at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. He added that the trade deficit was “draining jobs away from the recovery.”

“All that spending that’s falling on imports is creating jobs elsewhere, and not in the U.S.,” he said.

However, there is debate about just how alarming the trade deficit figures should be.

Many mainstream economists say that trade deficits can rise for reasons that are either positive or negative. Those reasons are usually more related to economic growth rates, government spending, and the value of the U.S. currency, they argue, rather than trade policy.

Mary Lovely, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said the ballooning trade deficit last year mostly reflected the country’s continued strong economic growth through the pandemic, which enabled Americans who were homebound to buy the electronics, imported pharmaceuticals, and office supplies they wanted.

Ms. Lovely said that the relief packages offered by the Trump and Biden administrations helped keep Americans’ household balance sheets fairly healthy through the pandemic, and Americans responded by keeping their spending robust.

And even with many pandemic-related disruptions, the global supply chain delivered record volumes of office supplies, electronics, imported pharmaceuticals, and personal protective gear last year, she said.

“In a lot of ways, this is a happy story,” she said.

“People worry that we are accumulating debt with the rest of the world, and that’s always a concern,” Ms. Lovely added. “But there hasn’t been any sign that the U.S. isn’t able to afford it.”

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