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Steel shipments and imports posted small monthly gains in May, but fell sharply year-over-year.

Shipments, the amount of steel that's actually sold, increased 1.2 percent in May over April but were down 14.6 percent as compared to May 2014. Exports rose 3 percent in May as compared to April, but were 16 percent less than the year prior, according to the American Institute for International Steel.

Domestic steel mills shipped 7.1 million net tons in May, as compared to 8.3 million net tons in May 2014, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. Hot-rolled sheets, hot-dipped galvanized sheets and strip and cold-rolled sheets were all up month-over-month.

So far this year, they shipped 36.2 million net tons, a 10.5 percent decrease compared to the same period last year.

The United States shipped a total of 870,099 net tons of steel in May, including nine-fold more to the Dominican Republic, which was the third-largest international buyer of U.S. steel in May, according to the AIIS.

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Most U.S. steel exports go to Canada and Mexico. Exports to Canada were down 21 percent year-over-year, and exports to Mexico fell 1 percent over the same period. Exports to the European Union, another major market, slid 9.5 percent from April to May and 4.8 percent compared to May 2014, but have grown by 16.9 percent so far this year.

So far this year, total exports have fallen 12.1 percent as compared to 2014. Canada's sluggish economy is largely to blame, and U.S. steel exports will continue to suffer until its top trading partner sees conditions improve, according the the AIIS.

"With Canada accounting for roughly half of all foreign purchases of steel from the United States, the steep decline in exports north of the border equals almost the entire dip in total exports from 2014 to 2015," the American Institute of International Steel said in a statement.

"Although Canada's finance minister insists that the country is not in a recession, many economists disagree. It is clear, though, that the nation's economy is at least struggling."

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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.