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U.S. steel production rose to highest level since 2007

A bar of steel makes its way through the 80" hot strip mill at AcerlorMittal Indiana Harbor on its way to becoming a coil of steel. The United States produced more than 95 million tons of steel in 2018, up 6.2 percent.

U.S. steelmakers made more than 95 million tons of steel in 2018, the most since 2007.

The United States produced 98.1 million tons of steel in 2007, but has only manufactured an average of 81.9 million tons a year since then, according to the World Steel Association.

Domestic steel production grew by more than 6.2 percent to 95 million tons as of Dec. 29, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. Final figures for 2018 will be available at a later date.

Great Lakes steel production rose to 733,000 tons last week, an increase of 1.52 percent.

Steel mills in the Great Lakes region made 711,000 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 1.899 million tons of metal last week, up from the 1.87 million tons made the previous week but up by 13.3 percent as compared to the same time last year.

U.S. steel mills have run at a capacity utilization rate of 78.3 percent through Dec. 29 last year, up from 74 percent at the same point in 2017, according to the AISI.

Domestic steelmakers ended the year on a high note, using about 81 percent of their steelmaking capacity in the week that ended Dec. 29, up from 71.9 percent at the same time a year ago and from 79.8 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.

Production in the Southern district, a wide geographic swath that includes many mini mills, fell to 668,000 tons last week, down from 680,000 tons the previous week.

Steel output in the greater Midwest rose to 207,000 ton last week, up from 189,000 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.