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Great Lakes steel production declines for fifth straight week

Shown is ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor. The Great Lakes made 673,000 tons of steel last week.

Great Lakes steel production fell by 8,000 tons to 673,000 tons in the last week of August, a decrease of 1.17% as compared to the previous week.

It was the fifth straight week of decline and the 11th time in 12 weeks that Great Lakes steel output decreased.

Steel mills in the Great Lakes region made 681,000 tons of metal the previous week, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. Most of the steel made in the Great Lakes region is produced around the southern shore of Lake Michigan in Lake and Porter counties, which are home to half the nation's blast furnace capacity.

Overall, domestic steel mills made 1.85 million tons of steel last week, down 1.4% from 1.877 million tons the previous week.

So far this year, domestic steel mills in the United States have made 65.3 million tons of steel, a 4.1% increase over the same period in 2018. Steel production was up 11.6% nationally in the first week of 2019 but the difference between 2019's and last year's input has been declining ever since.

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U.S. steel mills have run at a capacity utilization rate of 80.8% through Aug. 31, up from 77.3% at the same point in 2018, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

Domestic steelmakers used about 79.5% of their steelmaking capacity in the week that ended Aug. 31, up from 79.4% a year earlier but down from 80.6% the previous week, according to the AISI.

A steel capacity utilization rate of 83.4% earlier this year was the highest level reached in the United States since September 2008, according to the trade publication Platts.

The domestic steel industry had not been running at 80% capacity for years, but capacity utilization generally has been higher since the Section 232 tariffs of 25% were enacted. U.S. Steel, however, recently announced plans to idle East Chicago Tin and blast furnaces, including one at Gary Works, as a result of weakening prices and market conditions.

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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.