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Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region rose to 628,000 tons last week, the second straight week it's increased.

Local steel output has been much lower than normal all this year amid a flood of imports that now account for a historic 32 percent of the total market share. Overall U.S. production trails 2014 by 7.6 percent.

Great Lakes steel production increased by 6,000 tons, or 0.9 percent, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate. Overall U.S. steel output fell by 2.82 percent over 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 has led the nation in steel production for more than 30 years.

Production in the Southern District, which encompasses mini-mills across the South, plunged to 555,000 tons last week, down significantly from 597,000 tons the week before.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.684 million tons, down from 1.733 million tons a week earlier.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 71.2 percent last week, down from 73.3 percent a year earlier. The capacity utilization rate had been a much healthier 79 percent at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date output has been 45.2 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.4 percent, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

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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.