Great Lakes steel production jumped by 27,000 tons last week but remains depressed by more than a fifth so far this year, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.
Steel mills in the Great Lakes region, clustered mainly in Northwest Indiana, made 530,000 tons of metal in the week that ended Aug. 29, up from 503,000 tons the previous week, a 5.36% increase.
Steel production, however, remains down by 20.1% for the year, while steel capacity utilization has fallen more than 11 percentage points year over year, largely as a result of the coronavirus pandemic that greatly gutted demand for steel.
Overall, domestic steel mills in the United States made 1.459 million tons of steel last week, up 2.2% from 1.428 million tons the previous week but down 19% as compared to 1.801 million tons the same time a year prior.
Steel demand started plummeting in mid-March when automakers like Ford, General Motors and Honda — some of the largest consumers of steel in North America — temporarily ceased production to curb the spread of COVID-19.
It forced Northwest Indiana steel mills to idle operations and temporarily lay off hundreds of workers.
Auto plants across the country have come back online and ramped back up production volume, leading local steel mills to restart blast furnaces at Gary Works, ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor and ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor.
So far this year, domestic steel mills in the United States have made 54.7 million tons of steel, a 20.1% decrease compared to the 68.5 million tons made during the same period in 2019.
U.S. steel mills have run at a capacity utilization rate of 65.9% through Sept. 12, down from 80.3% at the same point in 2019, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.
Steel capacity utilization nationwide was 65.1% last week, which was up from 63.7% the previous week and down from 77.4% at the same time a year ago.
Steel production in the southern region, a wide geographic swath that encompasses many mini-mills and rivals the Great Lakes region in output, was 565,000 tons last week, up from 558,000 tons the week before. Volume in the rest of the Midwest rose to 172,000 tons, up from 157,000 tons the week prior.