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Great Lakes steel production shoots up by 32,000 tons

An ArcelorMittal steelworker uses a crane to move an order of steel in the slab yard at Plant 2 at the company's East Chicago mill in 2017. Great Lakes steel production rose to 726,000 tons last week.

Great Lakes steel production rose to 726,000 tons last week, a surge of 4.6 percent.

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.

Overall, domestic steel mills made 1.89 million tons of metal last week, up from the 1.876 million tons made the previous week.

U.S. steel mills have run at a capacity utilization rate of 78.2 percent this year, up from 74 percent at the same point in 2017, according to the AISI.

Domestic steelmakers used about 80.6 percent of their steelmaking capacity in the week that ended Dec. 15, up from 71.9 percent at the same time a year ago and up from 80 percent a week prior, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

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 this year than during a downturn in the steel industry several years ago.

Nationally, as 25 percent Section 232 tariffs make imports more expensive, steel output is up by 6 percent this year, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute, a 0.1 percent increase as compared to the past week and at least the 16th straight week of increase.

Production in the Southern district, a wide geographic swath that includes many mini mills, dropped to 676,000 tons last week, down from 680,000 tons the previous week.

Steel output in the greater Midwest stayed steady at 191,000 tons last 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.