WASHINGTON — The federal government reported a smaller-than-expected deficit of $90.5 billion in August, the Treasury Department announced Monday.

Economists estimated the $147 billion July budget deficit would shrink to $96 billion in August, according to the median estimate from Thomson Reuters.

Outlays totaled $254.5 billion and receipts totaled $164.0 billion. Receipts have increased on a year-over-year basis for four consecutive months. August marked the 23d consecutive monthly budget deficit.

For the fiscal year through August, the U.S. had a $1.26 trillion deficit, down 8% from the $1.37 trillion deficit through the first 11 months of fiscal 2009.

“With the economic downturn over, the growth of government spending has flattened while tax receipts have begun to recover,” said Steven Wood, chief economist at Insight Economics. “This has led to a change in the direction of the overall budget deficit. Rather than continuing to rise, it is now slowly shrinking.”

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