Iron and steel comprise multi-million dollar industries in the United States, serving as the primary material source for contingent industries, such as automotive and construction based. Mill products, such as iron and steel bars, sheets, and strips, as well as fully formed products, such as nails, spikes, and rods are continually in demand and thus continuing to drive product manufacturing. Even slight fluctuations in the automotive and construction industries have a significant influence on exactly what gets manufactured—over the past thirty years there has been a significant decrease in the number of large facilities, and an increase in the overall investment in automation and new technology—but iron and steel product manufacturing has somewhat diminished due to new material developments.
In 1993, the US Steel Group led national iron and steel production at 5,422 million dollars in sales, with Bethlehem Steel Corp. a close second at 4,219 million dollars. Of the top eight iron and steel producers, three of the companies were located in Pittsburgh, PA, while other companies hailed from New Jersey, Illinois, West Virginia, and Texas. Approximately 80 percent of steel making capacity and 46 percent of steel mills were located in the six Great Lake states, with the South constituting the second largest steel producing region. However, with the development of mini-mills replacing larger integrated steel and iron production companies, the geographic spread is rapidly changing and expanding.
Steel shipments experienced a turnaround in the mid-nineties and were subsequently able to increase prices. As a result of the weak American dollar importing foreign steel was a much more expensive endeavor, which gave the domestic steel industry a much needed boost. Additionally, the automotive and construction industries increased their steel demand. However, world-wide demand for steel was down in the early nineties, with the exception of China, whose rapid economic growth fed the demand for steel.
The economic recession in the United States in 2008 was strongly felt by the steel and iron industry. As of November, 2008, the American Iron and Steel Institute reported a 39.9 percent decrease in the net tons of steel shipped since November 2007, and a 25.8 percent decrease in net tons of steel shipped merely a month earlier, in October, 2008.