NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The U.S. government is racking up debt at a slower pace than last year, according to Treasury Department figures released Monday. In the first six months of the fiscal year, the U.S. government fell $717 billion further into the red, the Treasury Department reported Monday, including a $65.4 billion deficit in March. That means the deficit for fiscal 2010, which started in October, is down 8% from $781.4 billion in the same period last year. The Treasury Department is forecasting that the deficit will hit $1.56 trillion this year, up from the record $1.4 trillion losses posted last year. March's shortfall, the 18th consecutive monthly deficit, was down from the $191.6 billion in the red posted a year ealier. Just before the start of the financial crisis in September 2008, the government reported a monthly gain, which reduced its overall debt by $45.7 billion. Receipts in March were approximately $153.4 billion, up from $128.9 billion in March last year, and outlays were about $218.7 billion, down from $320.5 billion. Earlier this year, President Obama signed a law that increased the government's debt cap to a record high $14.3 trillion. As of Thursday, U.S. debt subject to that limit totalled $12.8 trillion.