The US trade deficit fell to its lowest level in 18 months in June, pushed down by a steep drop in oil imports and a small rise in exports.
The Commerce Department says the trade gap narrowed to $US42.9 billion ($A40.7 billion) in June, down from $48 billion in May.
The price of imported oil fell $7.78 to $100.13 a barrel, the steepest drop in 3 years.
That helped lower the trade deficit in oil to its lowest level since November 2010.
Exports rose 0.9 per cent to a record high of $185 billion.
Overseas sales of cars, pharmaceuticals and industrial machinery increased.
Despite Europe's struggling economy, exports to the 27-nation European Union increased 1.7 per cent.
Imports fell 1.5 per cent to $227.9 billion, the lowest in four months.
Meanwhile, the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell by 6000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 361,000, a level consistent with modest gains in hiring.
The Labor Department says the less volatile four-week average rose by 2250 to 368,250 in the week that ended August 4.
Weekly applications bounced around in July, skewed by the difficulty of accounting for temporary summertime layoffs in the car industry.
The seasonal distortions had faded by last week.
When applications consistently fall below 375,000, it typically suggests hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.
Hiring picked up in July after three sluggish months of job growth.
The economy generated 163,000 jobs last month, the most since February. Still, the unemployment rate rose to 8.3 per cent from 8.2 per cent in June.