Steel Products Prices North America

Apparent Steel Supply Rises to 9.5 Million Tons in May

Written by Brett Linton

US apparent steel supply increased 4% from April to May, rising to 9.48 million net tons, according to the latest US Department of Commerce and American Iron and Steel Institute data. Recall that supply reached a six-year high last September at 9.92 million tons, declining each month through February. May’s supply level is now the third highest monthly level seen in the past year, the eighth highest level since the April 2020 downturn, and in line with the supply levels previously seen in 2018-2019.

Apparent steel supply, a proxy for demand, is determined by combining domestic steel mill shipments and finished US steel imports, then deducting total US steel exports.

May apparent supply is 365,000 tons higher than the same month one year ago, when supply was 9.11 million tons. This 4% improvement was primarily due to a 493,000-ton increase in finished steel imports, slightly reduced by a 76,000-ton decrease in domestic shipments and a 51,000-ton increase in total exports. The net trade balance between US steel imports and exports was at a surplus of 1.96 million tons imported in May, 10% higher than one year prior. Finished steel imports accounted for 25% of supply in May, up from 20% this time last year. The graphic below shows May trade statistics for each of the past three years.

Compared to last month when apparent supply was 9.09 million tons, May’s supply rose by 391,000 tons. This 4% increase was primarily due to a 281,000-ton increase in domestic shipments, followed by a 74,000-ton increase in finished steel imports and a 37,000-ton decrease in total exports. The net trade balance between imports and exports in May rose 3% from April. The percentage of apparent steel supply composed of finished steel imports was steady at 25%. The graphic below shows monthly statistics over the last three months.

The figure below shows year-to-date monthly averages for each statistic over the last five years. The average monthly apparent supply level for the first five months of 2022 continues to improve compared to the same periods in 2020 and 2021. It is now back in line with the monthly averages of most previous years shown.

Apparent supply for the entire year of 2021 totaled 110.3 million tons, up 22% from 90.3 million tons in 2020, and up 1% from 109.5 million tons in 2019. In Steel Market Update’s 13-year data history, 2014 holds the annual record at 119.5 million tons.

To see an interactive graphic of our Apparent Steel Supply history, visit the Apparent Steel Supply page in the Analysis section of the SMU website. If you need any assistance logging into or navigating the website, contact us at

By Brett Linton,

Brett Linton

Read more from Brett Linton

Latest in Steel Products Prices North America