(Reuters) - The U.S. government posted a $21 billion budget deficit for December 2021, the smallest monthly gap in two years as individual income tax receipts surged with increased employment, the Treasury Department said on Wednesday.
The December deficit was 85% lower than the year-ago deficit of $144 billion, and was the smallest since a December 2019 deficit of $13 billion, just before the COVID-19 pandemic threw the global economy into a tailspin.
December receipts grew 41% to a monthly record of $487 billion, while outlays grew 4% to a record $508 billion.
For the first three months of the 2022 fiscal year started Oct. 1 the federal deficit fell 34% from the prior year period to $378 billion, with receipts up 31% to a record $1.052 trillion and outlays up 4% to a record $1.430 trillion.
December's results were driven by a 44% increase in individual withheld income and payroll taxes, while other individual tax payments rose 13% for the month.
A number of outlay categories were lower in December than a year ago, with Labor Department outlays -- principally unemployment benefits -- down 81% to $6 billion.
(Reporting By David Lawder; Editing by Andrea Ricci)