steel rebar
Output of steel used in construction has held up better in the South, where more construction sites remain open.
Image provided by Dreamstime.

Steel output in US drops again

AISI reports third consecutive weekly drop, this time by 18 percent week-on-week.

April 14, 2020

The Washington-based American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) has reported an 18.1 percent decline in steel output in the United States for the week ending April 11, 2020.

The week-on-week decrease marks the third in a row for steelmakers in the U.S., who are reacting to dwindling manufacturing activity and steel demand caused by reactions to the COVID-19 coronavirus.

According to AISI data, COVID-19-related mill cutbacks began the week ending March 28, when crude steel output fell by 9.8 percent compared to the week before.

By that week, domestic raw steel production was 1.67 million net tons at a mill operating capacity rate of 71.6 percent. In addition to representing a nearly 10 percent week-on-week decline, the figure represented a 12.7 percent decrease from output in the comparable week in 2019.

In the following week, ending April 4, domestic raw steel production of 1.53 million net tons represented another 8.4 percent decline. Figures released by AISI for the week ending April 11 now show the steepest drop yet.

The mill output cuts in the three weeks combined show a plunge of more than 32 percent, and a mill capacity rate that dropped from 79.4 percent at the start of the timeframe to 56.1 percent at the conclusion of it.

Looking back one year, the 1.256 million tons of crude steel made the week ending April 11, 2020, was down 33.6 percent from the nearly 1.9 million tons produced in the same week in 2019.

Year-to-date production through April 11 stands at 26.3 million tons, at an average capacity rate of 77.9 percent. That is down 4.9 percent from the nearly 27.7 million tons made during the same period last year, when the capacity rate was 81.5 percent.

Based on a mid-month to mid-month comparison, production in the Northeast region appears hardest hit. According to AISI, that region produced 225 million tons of steel the week ending March 14, 2020, bit its output fell by nearly 54 percent to 104 million tons by the week ending April 11.

By contrast, output in the AISI’s Southern region dropped by about 21 percent, in its Great Lakes region by about 37 percent, and in its Midwest region by nearly 40 percent.

A survey of construction job sites by a security camera services provider showed construction in the South was least likely to have completely shut down, while several states in the Northeast were the hardest hit by complete stoppages.