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Great Lakes steel production shoots up to 654,000 tons

An employee works on a steel coil at NLMK Indiana at its mill at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor. Steel output in the Great Lakes rose to 654,000 tons last month.

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region rose to 654,000 tons last week, after declining to 622,000 tons the week prior.

Local steel output has been lower than normal all year because of surging imports that have seized a record-breaking 31 percent of the total market share. Overall U.S. production trails 2014 by 8 percent.

Great Lakes steel production increased by 32,000 tons, or 4.9 percent, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate. Overall U.S. steel output ticked down by about 1.75 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 in Northwest Indiana. 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 big mills on the Lake Michigan shoreline in the Calumet Region.

Production in the Southern District, which encompasses mini-mills across the South, stayed flat at 568,000 tons last week.

Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.675 million tons, down from 1.705 million tons a week earlier. 

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 70.1 percent last week, down from 71.3 percent a week earlier. The capacity utilization rate had been a much more robust 76.5 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 71.2 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.4 percent, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. It had been 77.4 million tons at the same point 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.