Steel Products Prices North America

Steel Imports Dip to 2.89 Million Tons in December, January Licenses Over 3 Million

Written by Brett Linton

Final Census data shows U.S. steel imports fell 8% from November to December to 2.89 million net tons, the fifth highest monthly level in 2021. January import licenses through Feb. 7 are currently at 3.04 million tons, a 5% jump from December, but down 4% compared to November. Recall that total imports in September had reached a 28-month record-high of 3.26 million tons.

The average for 2021 steel imports is now 2.72 million tons per month, up 48% from the 2020 average of 1.84 million tons per month and up 17% from the 2019 average of 2.32 million tons per month. The last year with a monthly average exceeding the 2021 rate was 2018 at 2.81 tons per month. 

Total finished steel imports are at 2.27 million tons in December, down 13% from the month prior when we saw a 3.5-year high. Finished steel import licenses for January are currently at 2.36 million tons, 4% above December but 9% below November. February finished import licenses are at 464,000 tons as of Feb. 7.

Due to large month-to-month swings in semifinished imports, the chart below shows total monthly imports on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis in an attempt to more accurately display U.S. steel import trends. The 3MMA through final December data was 2.93 million tons, down from November’s 3+ year high of 3.05 million tons. Recall that the lowest 3MMA level in SMU’s recent history was November 2020 at 1.36 million tons. Looking through the latest January license data, that 3MMA is currently at 3.03 million tons. 

The table below displays flat rolled product imports as well as other high-volume products, including rebar, tin plate, wire rod, structural pipe and tube, and other long products. We also provide data on imports divided into semifinished, finished, flat rolled, longs, pipe and tube, and stainless products.

The two charts below show monthly imports grouped by product category: flat rolled imports and pipe and tube imports. As reported in the preliminary data, flat rolled imports slipped in December to 1.28 million tons, down 17% from November’s multi-year high of 1.54 million tons. January license data currently shows 1.28 million tons of flat rolled imports coming into the country, while February licenses are at 198,000 tons through the seventh day of the month. Pipe and tube imports rose 11% to 470,000 tons in December, the second highest level in 2+ years. January pipe and tube import licenses are currently at 471,000 tons, while February licenses are at 104,000 tons.

We have an interactive graphing tool available on our website here where readers can further investigate historical import data, in total and by product. If you need assistance logging into or navigating the website, contact us at

By Brett Linton,

Brett Linton

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