Steel production in the United States had fallen to about half capacity around this time a year ago, near the onset of the coronavirus pandemic when auto factories across the country were being shut down in response to viral outbreaks.
It was a level of underutilization possibly not seen at local steel mills since the Great Depression.
Now with vaccines being rolled out widely and infection and death rates down, steel production is up more than 43% year over year.
Great Lakes steel production rose by 8,000 tons last week, while U.S. steel mills remained close to 80% of capacity, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.
Steel mills in the Great Lakes region, clustered mainly along the South Shore of Lake Michigan in Northwest Indiana, made 611,000 tons of metal in the week that ended April 24, up 1.32% from 603,000 tons the previous week.
Overall, domestic steel mills in the United States made 1.78 million tons of steel last week, up 0.6% from 1.77 million tons the previous week, and up 43.6% as compared to 1.24 million tons the same time a year prior, when the onset of the coronavirus pandemic shut down auto plants and other factories, gutting the demand for steel.
So far this year, domestic steel mills in the United States have made 28.48 million tons of steel, a 2.1% increase compared to the 27.9 million tons made during the same period in 2020.
U.S. steel mills have run at a capacity utilization rate of 77.2% through April 24, down from 73.7% at the same point in 2020, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.
Steel capacity utilization nationwide was 78.4% last week, which was up from 55.4% at the same time a year ago and up from 78% at the same time a week prior.
Steel production in the southern region, a wide geographic swath that encompasses many mini-mills and rivals the Great Lakes region in output, was 744,000 tons last week, down from 747,000 tons the week before. Volume in the rest of the Midwest rose to 189,000 tons, up from 183,000 tons the week prior.