Raw steel production rose to 660,000 tons in the Great Lakes region last week, getting back on track after two straight weeks of decline.
U.S. steel production shot up by 6.3 percent in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate. Local production increased by 6,000 tons, or about 0.9 percent.
Most of the raw steel production in the Great Lakes region takes place in Indiana and the Chicago area.
Plunging oil prices, which have dipped below $50 a barrel, are expected to dampen demand for tubular steel. U.S. Steel announced Tuesday it would idle 756 workers at plants in Ohio and Texas that make oil and natural gas pipes.
Production in the Southern District, typically the nation’s second-biggest steel-producing region, skyrocketed to 663,000 tons, up from 556,000 tons the previous week.
Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.857 million tons, up from 1.746 million tons a week earlier.
Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 77.2 percent last week, up from 72.6 percent a week earlier. The capacity utilization rate had been 74.6 percent at the same time a year earlier.
Steel imports decreased by 18.2 percent in November, but were still 40 percent higher than in November 2013, according to the American Institute for International Steel. The 3.6 million net tons the United States imported in November marked the first decline in imports in three months. Imports from Brazil fell most dramatically plunging 39 percent.
Imports from Mexico dropped 26 percent, and imports from Canada fell by 471,000 net tons, or 14 percent.
Year-to-date, steel imports are up 37 percent over 2013, and finished steel imports are up by 34 percent, according to the AIIS. European Union imports have surged 45.6 percent, while Chinese imports are up 68.5 percent.
The AIIS chalks the rise in imports up to an economy that is growing at its most robust rate in 11 years, which drives up demand for steel, as well as to high prices for domestically produced steel.
Zhejiang Yaang Pipe Industry Co., Limited