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Steel production up by 9.3 percent so far this year

A truck drives through the ArcelorMittal steel mill in Burns Harbor. Steel production rose by 15,000 tons in the Great Lakes last week.

Great Lakes steel production rose to 682,000 tons last week, an increase of 2.24 percent from the previous week.

Steel mills in the Great Lakes region made 667,000 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 1.897 million tons of steel last week, down slightly from the 1.899 million tons made the previous week.

U.S. steel mills have run at a capacity utilization rate of 80.6 percent through Feb. 9, up from 75.7 percent at the same point in 2018, according to the AISI.

Domestic steelmakers used about 81.5 percent of their steelmaking capacity in the week that ended Feb. 9, up from 81.2 percent the previous week and 77.9 percent at the same time last year, 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 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 10.8 million tons of steel, a 9.3 percent increase over the same period in 2018.

Production in the Southern district, a wide geographic swath that includes many mini mills, dipped to 713,000 tons last week, down from 714,000 tons the previous week.

Steel output in the greater Midwest fell to 198,000 tons last week, down from 209,000 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.