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Great Lakes steel production dips for third straight week

The ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor steel mill. Steel production fell to 686,000 tons in the Great Lakes region last week.

Great Lakes steel production fell by 8,000 tons to 686,000 tons last week, a decrease of 1.1%.

It's the third-straight week of decline and the ninth time in 10 weeks that Great Lakes steel output decreased.

Steel mills in the Great Lakes region made 694,000 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 1.857 million tons of steel last week, down 0.5% from 1.867 million tons the previous week.

U.S. steel mills have run at a capacity utilization rate of 81% through Aug. 17, up from 77.3% at the same point in 2018, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

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Domestic steelmakers used about 79.8% of their steelmaking capacity in the week that ended Aug. 17, up from 79.4% a year earlier but down from 80.2% 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 blast furnaces, including one at Gary Works, as a result of weakening prices and market conditions.

So far this year, domestic steel mills in the United States have made 61.66 million tons of steel, a 4.5% 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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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.