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Great Lakes steel output keeps trending up

File of piping at one of the blast furnaces at ArcelorMittal steel mill in Burns Harbor. Great Lakes steel production rose to 629,000 tons last year.

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes continued its upward trend, rising to 629,000 tons.

Local steel output has been much lower than normal because of soaring imports that snatched a record-breaking 29 percent of total market share last year, when China exported a record 120 million tons, disrupting the world market. However, imports have started to slow after domestic steelmakers filed trade cases.

Great Lakes steel output rose by 4,000 tons, or 0.6 percent, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate. Overall U.S. steel output rose by 1.69 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 more than 30 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, rose to 587,000 tons last week, up from 563,000 a week before.

Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.68 million tons, up from 1.65 million tons a week earlier.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 71.9 percent last week, up from 70.7 percent a week earlier. The capacity utilization rate had been 72.4 percent at the same time a year earlier, but some industry analysts say it wouldn’t be healthy unless it were over 90 percent.

Year-to-date steel output has been 9.6 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 68 percent, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. Output had been 10.7 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.