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Great Lake steel soars to 2016 high

A steelworker throws insulation on top of molten iron and slag as it flows from a blast furnace at ArcelorMittal’s Burns Harbor facility. Steel production in the Great Lakes region soared to 670,000 tons last week.

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region soared to 670,000 tons last week, a new high for 2016.

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 nine of the 13 weeks so far this year.

Great Lakes steel output rose by 45,000 tons, or 7.2 percent, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate. Overall U.S. steel output increased by 0.4 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 536,000 tons last week, compared to 591,000 a week before.

Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.675 million tons, up from 1.688 million tons a week earlier.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 71.6 percent last week, up from 71.3 percent a week earlier. The capacity utilization rate had been 67.7 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 21.5 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 70.3 percent, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. Output had been 22.2 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.