The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the September trade deficit was 3.7 percent higher than a revised $23.5 billion August deficit.
The latest deterioration in trade left the overall deficit running at an annual rate of $255.5 billion this year, a sharp 56 percent above last year's record of $164.3 billion.
For September, exports, which had hit a record in August, edged back a slight 0.9 percent to $81.7 billion, reflecting sharp declines in exports of commercial airliners and autos.
Imports hit a new monthly record, rising 0.1 percent to $106.1 billion as the price of foreign crude oil shot up to the highest level in 31 months.
By Martin Crutsinger