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Great Lakes steel production continues strong start

Shown is the ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor complex in East Chicago. Local steel production rose by 6.35 percent last week.

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes jumped up by 37,000 tons last week, continuing a strong start to 2016.

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. Imports have however begun to taper off after domestic steelmakers filed trade cases.

Great Lakes steel output rose by 37,000 tons, or 6.35 percent, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate. Overall U.S. steel output soared by 10.6 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 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, rebounded to 514,000 tons last week, up from 417,000 a week before.

Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.59 million tons, up from 1.44 million tons a week earlier.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 66.7 percent last week, up from 60.2 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 3 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 63.4 percent, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. Output had been 3.6 million tons at the same time in 2014.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.