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Great Lakes steel production dipped last week

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Steel production fell by 4,000 tons in the Great Lakes region last week, continuing a slow start for the year, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

Locally, steel mills in the Great Lakes region, clustered mainly along the south shore of Lake Michigan in Northwest Indiana, made 542,000 tons of metal in the week that ended Jan. 21, down from 546,000 tons the previous week.

Steel mills remained well below 80% capacity, a key threshold for financial success for the steel sector. After years of record profitability, the industry has been dealing with falling prices, increased economic uncertainty and rising import levels after tariffs were rolled back in favor of quota systems with some trading partners. The United Steelworkers union and Cleveland-Cliffs pursued new trade protections for the first time in years after a collapse in the tin market that led to the idling of tin mills, including in Gary.

Overall, domestic steel mills made 1.62 million tons of steel last week, up 1.1% from 1.602 million tons the previous week and down 7.7% compared to 1.735 million tons the same time a year prior.

Nationally, steel production in 2023 totals 4.817 million tons, a 7.5% decrease from the 5.206 million tons manufactured through the same period last year.

U.S. steel mills have run at a capacity utilization rate of 71.8% through Saturday, down from 79.8% at the same point in 2021, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

Steel capacity utilization, a key metric of the industry’s profitability, was 72.5% last week, down from 79.8% a year earlier and up from 71.7% the week prior.

Steel production in the southern region, which encompasses many mini-mills and rivals the Great Lakes region in output, totaled 681,000 tons last week, up from 657,000 tons the week before, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

Volume in the rest of the Midwest fell to 202,000 tons, down from 205,000 tons the week prior.

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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.

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