At the same time, the government said the U.S. trade deficit narrowed in March for a second month. The main reason: The daily flow of imported crude oil reached a 17-year low.
The trade gap shows how much the value of imports exceeds the value of exports. A smaller trade gap is good for economic growth because it means America is exporting more while spending less on foreign goods.
The gap shrank 11 percent from February to $38.8 billion. Exports fell 0.9 percent, led by fewer shipments of U.S. machinery, autos and farm products.
But thanks to reduced U.S. demand for imported oil, imports fell even more — 2.8 percent. Petroleum imports fell 4.4 percent. Crude oil imports averaged 7 million barrels a day, the fewest since March 1996.