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Steel production up 2.7% this year
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Steel production up 2.7% this year

Steel production up 2.7% this year

Steel coil stacked at ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor.

Great Lakes steel production ticked down slightly by 4,000 tons to 702,000 tons last week.

It was just the 14th time in 20 weeks that Great Lakes steel output trended upward after market conditions worsened this summer to the point where U.S. Steel decided to idle facilities in Northwest Indiana.

Steel mills in the Great Lakes region made 706,000 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 and the largest steel mills in North America.

Overall, domestic steel mills in the United States made 1.87 million tons of steel last week, up 1.4% from 1.84 million tons the previous week.

So far this year, domestic steel mills in the United States have made 79.4 million tons of steel, a 2.7% increase over the 77.6 million tons made during the same period in 2018. Steel production was up 11.6% nationally in the first week of 2019, but the difference between 2019's and last year's output has been declining ever since.

U.S. steel mills have run at a capacity utilization rate of 80.3% through Oct. 26, up from 77.5% at the same point in 2018, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

Domestic steelmakers used about 80.7% of their steelmaking capacity in the week that ended Saturday, up from 80.1% a year earlier and from 79.6% the previous week.

A steel capacity utilization rate of 83.4% earlier this year was the highest level reached in the U.S. since September 2008, according to the trade publication Platts.

The domestic steel industry had not been running at 80% capacity for years, but capacity use generally has been higher since the Section 232 tariffs of 25% were enacted. U.S. Steel, however, recently announced plans to idle East Chicago Tin and blast furnaces, including one at Gary Works, cautioning that its third-quarter revenues are expected to plunge as a result of weakening prices and market conditions.

After rebounding last year to the point where U.S. Steel restarted idled blast furnaces at Granite City Works in Illinois, steel mill capacity use across the U.S. has fallen for the past few months under the 80% threshold.

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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.

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