WASHINGTON — The federal government’s budget deficit was $198.2 billion in March, down from $231.7 billion in February, but up $10.0 billion or 5% from the $188.2 billion deficit a year ago, the Treasury Department reported Wednesday.

The deficit is smaller than the median $201.5 billion estimated by economists polled by Thomson Reuters.

Outlays totaled $369.4 billion, $30.4 billion or 9% more than the $339.0 billion in March 2011.

Receipts were $171.2 billion, $20 billion or 13.5% higher than the $150.9 billion a year ago.

For the year-to-date the government’s deficit is $778.9 billion. That’s down $50.5 billion, or 6.1%, from the $829.4 billion deficit through the same point in fiscal 2011.

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