The total tonnage for the week ending January 11th was 1,923 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 82.5%. The first time the capacity utilization has been under 82 percent since the week of April 13th, 2019. The year to date tonnage output is 3,821 million net tons, at an average capacity utilization rate of 82.3%. In 2018, the same output total was 3,767 million net tons, at an average capacity utilization of 79.9%.
Figure 1 presents a map of the U.S. with its five steel producing zones. The nation as a whole produced 1.4% more steel than for the same period in 2019. The Southern region was the largest steel producing region, with 1,419 million net tons through January 11th, up 7.9% y/y. The Northeast region habitually the second largest, produced 443 thousand net tons up 0.2% y/y. At 423 thousand net tons, the Midwest region ranked third largest. The Great Lakes tonnage moved down by 7.4% y/y. The Great Lakes produced 1,343 million net tons, while the Western zone produced 193 thousand net tons, up 27.8% y/y.
Figure 2 shows production on the left-hand scale and capacity utilization as a percent on the right-hand scale. Capacity utilization and production tapered off at the end of the year as is typical for November and December.
At Gerdau, we track US steel production and capacity utilization to keep an eye on the overall health of the US steel industry. We feel it is important to understand the forces that influence steel demand to include the strength of the US economy and import penetration.