Trade deficit expanded in September

 The nation's trade gap widened in September to the highest level in four months as imports picked up pace.

The deficit rose to $41.8 billion, an 8 percent increase over August's revised $38.7 billion, the biggest gap since May, the Commerce Department reported on Thursday. 

The gap dropped to a four-year low in June but has been gradually expanding since then. 

Imports were up 1.2 percent to $230.7 billion, the highest since November 2012.

Exports were down 0.2 percent to $188.9 billion, the third straight month of drops after hitting reaching a record high in June. 

The report was delayed from its initial Nov. 5 release date because of the 16-day government shutdown last month. 

The deficit with China continued to expand, hitting another all-time high of $30.5 billion. 

Deficits also were recorded with the European Union $8 billion, Japan $5.5 billion, Mexico $5.3 billion, Canada $3.2 billion, South Korea $2.1 billion and India $1.7 billion.

All told, the deficit this year is running 11.7 percent below last year — down to $359.5 billion from $407.2 billion through the first nine months of 2012. 

Lawmakers, labor, business groups and academics are launching an effort to end the practice of currency manipulation that most agree accounts for half of the trade deficit and has cost the nation millions of jobs. 

A broad coalition is pushing for inclusion of provisions into the Trans-Pacific Partnership and any future trade deals to ensure there is a process to determine whether countries are manipulating currency and, if so, specific punishments for using the practice to gain an economic advantage.