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Great Lakes steel production falls by 21,000 tons last week

The blast furnace sculpture in downtown Gary, across from the Gary Works steel mill. Great Lakes steel production fell to 661,000 tons last week.

Great Lakes steel production fell to 661,000 tons last week, a decrease of 3 percent as compared to the previous week.

Steel mills in the Great Lakes region made 682,000 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 1.886 million tons of steel last week, down from 1.897 million tons the previous week.

U.S. steel mills have run at a capacity utilization rate of 80.7 percent through Feb. 16, up from 75.7 percent at the same point in 2018, according to the AISI.

Domestic steelmakers used about 81 percent of their steelmaking capacity in the week that ended Feb. 16, down from 81.5 percent the previous week but up from 77.9 percent at the same time last year, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

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Some analysts say steel-making capacity utilization of about 90 percent is considered financially healthy for the industry, at least for the larger integrated mills like those around Lake Michigan in Northwest Indiana, because of their high fixed operating costs. But the capacity utilization rate has been significantly higher so far this year than during the most recent downturn, when blast furnaces were taken offline at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor in East Chicago and elsewhere.

So far this year, domestic steel mills have made 12.7 million tons of steel, a 8.4 percent increase over the same period in 2018.

Production in the Southern district, a wide geographic swath that includes many mini mills, rose to 726,000 tons last week, up from 713,000 tons the previous week.

Steel output in the greater Midwest rose to 206,000 tons last week, up from 198,000 tons the previous week.

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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.