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Steel production up by 6.7 percent this year

Slabs of steel sit outside the hot strip mill where they are rolled into coils at the ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor. Great Lakes steel production rose by 6,000 tons last week.

Great Lakes steel production rose to 729,000 tons last week, an increase of 6,000 tons, or 0.8 percent, as compared to the previous week.

Steel mills in the Great Lakes region made 723,000 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 1.93 million tons of steel last week, down from 1.941 million tons the previous week.

U.S. steel mills have run at a capacity utilization rate of 81.4 percent through March 16, up from 76.6 percent at the same point in 2018, according to the AISI.

Domestic steelmakers used about 82.9 percent of their steel-making capacity in the week that ended March 16, down from a recent high of 83.4 percent the previous week but up from 78.3 percent at the same time last year, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

The previous week's 83.4 percent was the highest level the steel-making capacity utilization rate has reached in the United States since September 2008, according to the trade publication Platts.

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 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 20.3 million tons of steel, a 6.7 percent increase over the same period in 2018.

Production in the Southern district, a wide geographic swath that includes many mini mills, rose to 711,000 tons last week, up from 697,000 tons the previous week.

Steel output in the greater Midwest fell to 205,000 tons last week, down from 214,000 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.