At the halfway point, 2020 is shaping up to be a rough year for the steel industry, largely because of the far-reaching impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Steel production has plunged by 18.9% for the year, while steel capacity utilization is down more than 24 percentage points as compared to the same time last year, largely as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Great Lakes steel production ticked up by 3,000 tons last week, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. Steel mills in the Great Lakes region, clustered mainly in Northwest Indiana, made 409,000 tons of metal, up from 406,000 tons the previous week.
Overall, domestic steel mills in the United States made 1.24 million tons of steel last week, up 1.3% from 1.224 million tons the previous week and down 33.4% as compared to 1.863 million tons the same time a year prior.
Steel demand started plummeting in mid-March when automakers like Ford, General Motors and Honda, some of the largest consumers of North American steel, temporarily ceased production to limit the spread of COVID-19, forcing Northwest Indiana steel mills to indefinitely idle blast furnaces for the foreseeable future. But auto plants across the country have come back online and have been slowly increasing production volume.
So far this year, domestic steel mills in the United States have made 39.16 million tons of steel, a 18.9% decrease compared to the 48.31 million tons made during the same period in 2019.
U.S. steel mills have run at a capacity utilization rate of 67% through June 27, down from 81.2% at the same point in 2019, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.
Steel capacity utilization nationwide was 55.4% last week, which was up from 54.6% the previous week but down from 80.1% 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 516,000 tons in the week that ended Saturday, down from 526,000 tons the week before. Volume in the rest of the Midwest ticked up to 132,000 tons last week, up from 129,000 tons the week prior.