The U.S. Treasury said the deficit for 2011 was the second largest ever, as it topped $1.2 trillion for the third consecutive year.
The deficit is $1.299 trillion, the Treasury said. That tops the 2010 deficit of $1.293 trillion, but comes up short of the 2009 record of $1.412 trillion, The Hill newspaper reported Saturday.
Deficits have soared as tax revenues have been decimated by the recession and slow recovery. With 15 million Americans out of work, the demand for services has also risen while revenues are down.
The deficit, however, is $347 billion less than the White House's February forecast. On balance, revenue rose by $141 billion over 2010, while spending climbed $145 billion.
Democrats and Republicans, of course, have a different take on how the nation's finances fell so far out of balance. Democrats point to falling revenues, most notably the George W. Bush era tax cuts, while Republicans point to spending, most notably the $787 billion stimulus package pushed by the White House in 2009.
Budget director Jack Lew, who announced the deficit along with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, advocated for President Barack Obama's plan to trim the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years.
"It follows a balanced approach, asking everyone to do their part," Lew said.