Steel output drops sharply in the Great Lakes region

2 April 2015

Raw steel production plunged to a yearly low of 579,000 tons in the Great Lakes region last week. For context, it's normally closer to 700,000 tons when demand is strong and the industry is humming along.

Capacity utilization was 68.9 percent last week, the lowest it's been since Dec. 2010. Overall U.S. production trails 2014 by 5.7 percent.

Local steel production fell by 33,000 tons, or 5.39 percent in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate. Overall U.S. steel output declined by 0.6 percent over the same period.

Most of the raw steel production in the Great Lakes region takes place in the Chicago area, chiefly Lake and Porter counties in Northwest Indiana. Indiana has led the nation in steel production for decades.

Production in the Southern District, typically the country's second-biggest steel-producing region, rose to 556,000 tons last week, up about 20,000 tons from the week before.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.628 million tons, down from 1.639 million tons a week earlier.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 68.9 percent last week, down from 69.3 percent a week earlier. The capacity utilization rate had been 77.7 percent at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date output was 21.5 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 73.3 percent, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. Production so far this year trails the 2014 rate by 5.7 percent, while capacity utilization lags last year by an dramatic 12.8 percent.