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U.S. Steel to lay off 2,000 in downstate Illinois

GRANITE CITY — A total of 2,000 steelworkers in Illinois found out they’d lose their jobs the week of Thanksgiving.

U.S. Steel announced Monday it will temporarily idle its Granite City Works steel mill outside of St. Louis. The Pittsburgh-based steelmaker, which lost $173 million in the third quarter, has been warning it could close the Granite City plant since at least May.

Granite City Works, which U.S. Steel has idled and revived before, makes a lot of flat-rolled steel that’s used in oil and natural gas drilling, but energy exploration has dried up since the price of crude oil plunged by 40 percent as compared to last November.

“As the primary flat-roll supplier of the oil and gas industry, the idling is part of an on-going adjustment of steelmaking operations throughout North America to match customer demand,” the company said in a statement. “The company routinely adjusts production at its operating facilities to reflect market fluctuations. This is a result of continued challenging global market conditions including fluctuating oil prices, reduced rig counts and associated inventory overhang, depressed steel prices and unfairly traded imports, which continue to have a significant impact on the business.”

U.S. Steel will continue to operates its mills in Northwest Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania, and finishing operations in Alabama. Gary Works is expected to pick up more orders as U.S. Steel transitions customers to other mills.

In related news, Caterpillar to cut thousands of jobs.

“The company will be working closely with its customers through this transition,” U.S. Steel said in a statement.

During some idlings, plants run at limited capacity, such as when East Chicago Tin was idled because of unfair trade. But in this case, all 2,000 workers will be affected, spokeswoman Sarah Cassella said.

The mill has two blast furnaces as well as finishing operations that include a hot strip mill, a pickle line, a 4-strand cold reduction mill and hot-dip galvanizing lines.

U.S. Steel is starting to transition customers over to other mills, and will completely idle the plant whenever that process is complete, Cassella said. The company has no timetable for how long it will be closed. When it’s reopened will depend on market conditions.

The company’s stock was traded for around $8 Monday, down from a 52-week high of $36.32

This article was written by JOSEPH S. PETE from The Times, Munster, Ind. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.