Steel industry waits for economic boom despite Trump tariffs

President Trump pledged to rejuvenate the steel industry during his campaign, which had helped him win votes in the 2016 election in such key states as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. However, those states are largely continuing to wait for an economic boom.

Last year, Trump moved to tax imported steel — to raise steel prices — which threatened to hurt the legions of U.S. manufacturers that depend on steel.

Trump’s 25 percent tariffs, as The Associated Press reported, have done little for the people they were supposed to help.

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Senior melt operator Randy Feltmeyer at the U.S. Steel Granite City Works facility in Granite City, Ill., in 2018.  (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

Senior melt operator Randy Feltmeyer at the U.S. Steel Granite City Works facility in Granite City, Ill., in 2018.  (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

This past January, Trump tweeted: "Tariffs on the 'dumping' of Steel in the United States have totally revived our Steel Industry... A BIG WIN FOR U.S."

The industry has added 1,800 jobs since February 2018, the month before the tariffs took effect. That would represent rounding error in a job market of 152 million and over a period when U.S. companies overall added nearly 4 million workers. Steelmakers have employed 10,000 fewer people than they did five years ago.

“Even with these very high tariffs, the industry has not been able to take advantage,” said Christine McDaniel, a senior research fellow at Mercatus Center, an economic think tank at George Mason University.

“It seems like it kind of backfired,” Mark Perry, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, told the AP. “Any kind of revitalization of U.S. steel just hasn’t happened.”

For the first few months after Trump’s tariffs took effect, steel prices did rise.

The price of a metric ton of hot rolled band steel hit $1,006 in July 2018, according to the SteelBenchmarker website, which tracks steel prices.

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Since then, it has plunged to $557 — lower than before the tariffs.

“Over time, (pricing has) come down, down, down, down, down,” said Mark Lash, president of United Steelworkers Local 1066 in Gary, Indiana, which represents about 1,400 workers at US Steel’s plant there. “It’s not where it was when the tariffs were announced.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.