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Great Lake steel output continues to soar

ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor Plate Heat Treat Facility employees watch a steel plate being transported to a hardening furnace in 2013. Great Lakes steel output reached a new 2016 high of 681,000 tons last week.

 

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region soared to 681,000 tons last week, reaching a yearly high for the second time in the past two weeks.

Local steel output has been recovering this year after imports grabbed a record-breaking 29 percent of total market share last year. Imports were down to only 26 percent of the market share last month, and Great Lakes production has risen in 10 of the 14 weeks so far this year.

Great Lakes steel output rose by 11,000 tons, or 1.6 percent, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate. Overall U.S. steel output declined by 1.5 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 35 straight years, largely because of the big local 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, fell to 499,000 tons last week, compared to 536,000 tons a week before.

Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.65 million tons, down from 1.675 million tons a week earlier.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 70.6 percent last week, down from 71.6 percent a week earlier. The capacity utilization rate had been 68.3 percent at the same time a year earlier, and some industry analysts say it wouldn’t be healthy unless it were more than 90 percent.

Year-to-date steel output in the United States has been 23.1 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 70.3 percent, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. Output had been 23.8 million tons at the same time in 2015.

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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.