Raw steel production in the Great Lakes fell for the first time in 2016 after three straight weeks of gains, dropping to 609,000 tons.
Local steel output has been much lower than normal because of soaring imports that snatched a record-breaking 29 percent of the total market share last year. However, imports have begun to taper off after domestic steelmakers filed trade cases.
Great Lakes steel output fell by 19,000 tons, or 3 percent, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate. Overall U.S. steel output jumped by 1.08 percent during the same period.
Most of the raw steel production in the Great Lakes region takes place in the Chicago area, mainly Lake and Porter counties. Indiana, which also has steelmaking operations in Fort Wayne and Crawfordsville, has led the nation in steel production for more than 30 years, largely because of the big local mills on the Lake Michigan shoreline in the Calumet Region.
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Production in the Southern District, which spans mini-mills across the South, shot up to 594,000 tons last week, up from 559,000 a week before.
Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.67 million tons, up from 1.65 million tons a week earlier.
Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 69.8 percent last week, up from 69.1 percent a week earlier. The capacity utilization rate had been a much more robust 76.4 percent at the same time a year earlier, but some industry analysts say it wouldn’t be healthy unless it were over 90 percent.
Year-to-date steel output has been 6.35 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 65.3 percent, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. Output had been 7.2 million tons at the same time in 2014.