On the dramatic drop in the trade deficit

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Barbara Kotschwar and Gary Hufbauer warn that a falling trade deficit gives little reason to cheer:

[T]he US trade deficit declined from $56.7 billion in October 2008 to $40.4 billion in November 2008, a fall of nearly 30 percent… About 80 percent of the decline reflects the falling price and volume of oil imports. However, nonoil merchandise exports in 2008 fell about as much as nonoil imports, about 7 percent for both.

Should the Commerce Department throw a party to celebrate declining imports? No! … the almost simultaneous announcement of 7.2 percent unemployment and the lowest monthly trade deficit since 2003 reflect a plain fact: Bad economic times drive down both employment and imports.

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