The U.S. trade deficit in March jumped to the highest level in more than six years as a small increase in exports was swamped by a flood of imports from autos to cellphones.

The Commerce Department says the deficit rose to $51.4 billion, the largest trade gap since October 2008 and more than 43 percent higher than the February imbalance.

Exports were up 0.9 percent to $187.8 billion, while imports increased 7.7 percent to $239.2 billion. The trade deficit is the short-fall between exports and imports.

Economists had expected the March deficit to expand, reflecting the resolution of labor disputes which had slowed shipments at West Coast ports. But the deficit was bigger than expected and will likely shrink an already anemic first quarter of economic growth.