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Summer of slump: Steel production falls for sixth straight week in Great Lakes region

New software is tracking hot rolled coils at No. 4 Shipping at ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor in Porter County.

Great Lakes steel production dipped by 5,000 tons to 683,000 tons last week, a decrease of 0.72% and the sixth straight week of decline.

Local steel output has been steadily declining since the week that ended on June 5, when it rose 1.92% week over week to 741,000 tons. 

Steel mills in the Great Lakes region made 688,000 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 1.867 million tons of steel last week, up from 1.847 million tons the previous week.

U.S. steel mills have run at a capacity utilization rate of 81.1% through July 13, up from 77% at the same point in 2018, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

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Domestic steelmakers used about 80.2% of their steelmaking capacity in the week that ended July 13, up from 78.4% a year earlier and up from 79.4% the previous week, according to the AISI.

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

The domestic steel industry had not been running at 80% capacity for years but capacity utilization generally has been higher since the Section 232 tariffs of 25%. U.S. Steel however recently announced plans to idle blast furnaces, including one at Gary Works, as a result of weakening prices and market conditions.

So far this year, domestic steel mills in the United States have made 52.3 million tons of steel, a 5.2% increase over the same period in 2018.

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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.