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Steel capacity utilization down to 62 percent

Steel sheeting rolls along the hot dip galvanizing line at the Burns Harbor ArcelorMittal plant. National steel capacity utilization is 15 percentage points lower than it was last year.

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region rose from 555,000 tons the previous week to 576,000 tons last week, though national capacity utilization is a stunningly low 62.2 percent.

Local steel output has been much lower than normal all year because of skyrocketing imports that have grabbed a record-breaking 30 percent of the total market share. Overall U.S. production lags 2014 by 8.7 percent thus far this year.

Great Lakes steel production rose by 21,000 tons, or 3.78 percent, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate. Overall U.S. steel output declined by 4.8 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, dropped to 450,000 tons last week, down from 523,000 a week before.

Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.487 million tons, down from 1.562 million tons a week earlier.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 62.2 percent last week, down from 65.3 percent a week earlier. The capacity utilization rate had been a much more robust 77.2 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 80.7 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 71.7 percent, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. It had been 88.5 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.