Steel imports rose again in July, posting a gain of nearly 5 percent over June.

Imports have ravaged the steel industry locally, leading to hundreds of layoffs this year and the idling of production lines at East Chicago Tin. Foreign-made steel slid to a 27 percent U.S. market share in July but has still captured a record 31 percent market share so far this year, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

Global steel production is falling, declining by 3.8 percent year-over-year in July, according to the World Steel Association. Output in China, which has most of the world's steelmaking overcapacity and is finally slumping economically after years of breakneck growth, fell 4.6 percent last month.

According to preliminary U.S. Census Bureau data, the United States imported about 3.24 million net tons of steel in July, including 2.5 million net tons of finished steel products, which typically do not require any further processing in this country.

Steel imports were up 4.6 percent over June and finished steel imports rose 3.7 percent over the same period, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

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Imported reinforcing bars were up 57 percent, plates in coils up 29 percent, and sheets and strip hot dipped galvanized were up 26 percent. Imports of cold-rolled sheets, a major product made at Northwest Indiana steel mills, also rose 25 percent.

Other steel imports that posted significant increases included heavy structural shapes, cut length plates and sheets and strip all over metallic coatings.

So far this year, line pipe, reinforcing bars and standard pipe are all up significantly. Total year-to-date imports are up 10 percent to 24.9 million last month over the same period in 2014.

Annualized total steel imports are projected to be 42.8 million net tons and 35 million net tons. At the current pace, year-end finished steel imports will be up 4 percent over the previous year in the United States.

Globally, capacity utilization is a woeful 68.4 percent, meaning nearly a third of steelmaking capacity is sitting idle. A rate of about 92 percent is considered health for the industry, according to the Economic Policy Institute.


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.