Great Lakes steel production surged by 19,000 tons last week

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Great Lakes steel production rose by 19,000 tons last week but remains depressed by more than 19% so far this year, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

Steel mills in the Great Lakes region, clustered mainly along the lakeshore in Northwest Indiana, made 557,000 tons of metal in the week that ended Oct. 17, up from 538,000 tons the previous week.

Steel production is down by 19.4% for the year, while steel capacity utilization has fallen more than 13 percentage points year over year, largely as a result of the coronavirus pandemic that greatly weakened demand.

Overall, domestic steel mills in the United States made 1.535 million tons of steel last week, up 2.2% from 1.502 million tons the previous week and down 15% as compared to 1.805 million tons the same time a year prior.

Steel demand started plummeting in mid-March when automakers like Ford, General Motors, Honda and other automakers — some of the largest consumers of steel in North America — temporarily ceased production to curb the spread of COVID-19, forcing Northwest Indiana steel mills to idle operations and temporarily lay off hundreds of workers. Demand has since been slowly rebounding, along with steel prices.

So far this year, domestic steel mills in the United States have made 62.48 million tons of steel, a 19.4% decrease compared to the 77.54 million tons made during the same period in 2019. 

U.S. steel mills have run at a capacity utilization rate of 66.3% through Oct. 17, down from 80.1% at the same point in 2019, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

Steel capacity utilization nationwide was 69.4% last week, which was up from 67.9% the previous week but down from 78% at the same time a year ago.

Steel production in the southern region, a wide geographic swath that encompasses many mini-mills and rivals the Great Lakes region in output, was 601,000 tons last week, up from 592,000 tons the week before. Volume in the rest of the Midwest rose to 164,000 tons, up from 154,000 tons the week prior.

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