- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The job market still may be struggling, but wages and salaries are improving, and that helped shrink the federal deficit to $59 billion for May, according to the Congressional Budget Office — the lowest deficit in five years for that month.

Still, the shortfall marks the 32nd straight month the federal government has been in the red — once again extending the hapless record streak.

CBO, in its monthly review of the federal budget, said individual income tax revenue is up $139 billion so far this fiscal year compared with 2010, well outstripping the loss of revenue from the payroll tax cut Congress and President Obama agreed to in December.

Overall, basic spending has gone up less than 1 percent, thanks in large part to the spending-cuts bill lawmakers passed earlier this year. But the automatic spending programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which were not part of the spending deal, continued to grow quickly: Social Security by 3.6 percent, Medicare by 3.8 percent and Medicaid by a worrisome 5.4 percent.

Still, the biggest jump in spending came on interest on the public debt, which is running 16 percent higher this year than in 2010.

With four months left in the fiscal year, the federal deficit stood at $929 billion, or about $7 billion below last year’s record pace. Spending has grown $132 billion in the year to date, while revenues are up $139 billion, which accounts for the slightly improved picture.

Final official figures will be released by the Treasury Department later this month.