How’s the Steel Industry Doing?

I wonder how the steel industry is doing these days. Why? Just curious, I guess. Here are the basic stats for production and capacity utilization:

This looks OK. It’s nothing to write home about, but production has increased moderately over the past couple of years and is now about where it was in 2015. But what we really want to know is how this has affected workers and shareholders. Here’s employment in the “primary metals” industry:

This isn’t so great. Employment has increased a bit since 2017, but it’s not growing any faster than the overall economy—and that didn’t change after President Trump announced his steel tariffs in early 2018. How about wages?

Yikes. That’s pretty dismal. Wages for everyone else have been steadily increasing, but for metals workers they’ve been down ever since Trump took office. So what do investors think of the steel sector?

Yikes again. The steel sector was growing at about the same rate as the S&P 500 until Trump announced his steel tariffs. Since then, the S&P 500 is up about 13 percentage points while the steel sector is down about 10 points.

Bottom line: We’re making a bit more steel than we were two years ago, but employment is pretty stagnant, wages are down, and investors have soured on the whole industry. They don’t seem to have much confidence that tariffs are going to do any good going forward.

There’s a lesson here: Every industry that Trump touches ends up worse off. Whatever sector you happen to work in, you should pray daily that Trump ignores you.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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