The U.S. trade deficit got nearly 4 percent worse in December as a reviving economy boosted demand for imported goods.
Both imports and exports hit record highs, but imports grew even more than the flow of goods exported from the United States.
Friday's report from the Commerce Department says the gap between what foreigners sell to U.S. buyers and what Americans sell overseas rose to $48.8 billion for the month.
For all of 2011, the trade deficit rose 11.6 percent to a total of $558 billion, the worst showing since 2008.
The trade gap with China hit a record-high of nearly $296 billion for the year, and is likely to focus more attention on this political issue in the United States.
One reason for the rising U.S. trade deficit is the increasing cost of oil imported to the United States. A study by the University of Michigan shows those rising fuel prices made consumers a bit more gloomy about the economic situation in early February.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.