Monthly deficit hits record $223B in Feb.

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The federal government recorded its biggest monthly deficit ever in February, topping $200 billion for the first time in history and marking a record 17th straight month the government has ended in the hole.

But there was some good news — receipts were up $16 billion over February 2009, the first monthly year-over-year increase since April 2008, which could be a sign that revenue coming into the government is on the rebound after the recession.

The numbers come in the latest monthly budget review by the Congressional Budget Office, released Thursday evening. Final numbers will come from the Treasury Department later this month, but CBO always provides an early estimate.

CBO said the government will record a deficit of $223 billion in February. The previous monthly record was set in Feb. 2009, at the beginning of the recession, when the deficit hit $194 billion.

The monthly deficit in February is larger than the total deficit the government recorded for all of fiscal year 2007.

CBO said entitlement spending in February “was noticeably higher” than last year, and said one big reason was unemployment benefits.

The government paid out $33 billion more last month compared with February 2009, a 93 percent increase, both because unemployment hovers near 10 percent and because Congress keeps prolonging the period for unemployed to claim checks.

Congress just passed another extension of benefits this week.

Medicaid, Social Security and Medicare also saw increases in spending.

Overall, the deficit for the first five months of fiscal year 2010, which began Oct. 1, is $655 billion, or $65 billion more than at this point in fiscal year 2009, which was also a record.

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