Final Thoughts

Preliminary Steel Imports Fall 17% in November to 21-Month Low

Written by Brett Linton

Preliminary Census data indicates that steel imports will have totaled 2.01 million net tons for the month of November. This is down 17% compared to the month prior, now standing at the lowest level recorded since February 2021. Import levels have been gradually falling since reaching a 26-month high in March 2022 of 3.09 million tons.

Broken down by product category, semifinished product imports in November are preliminarily down 46% from the previous month. Long product imports also fell substantially, down 22% month over month (MoM). Imports of stainless steel products declined 16% MoM, finished steel imports fell 11%, and flat-rolled imports decreased 10%, respectively. The only category to remain relatively stable was pipe and tube, falling less than 1%.

Total December import licenses are currently at 1.97 million tons through Dec. 27 data, potentially the lowest level seen in 22 months.

US Steel Import Trend

Although imports have declined for the majority of 2022, the annual rate remains healthy compared to recent years. The average monthly import rate for 2022 is now 2.55 million tons per month through preliminary December data. Compare this to the monthly averages of previous years: 2021 at 2.63 million tons, 2020 at 1.84 million tons, 2019 at 2.32 million tons, 2018 at 2.81 million tons, and 2017 at 3.17 million tons.

Preliminary imports of finished steels declined from 1.98 million tons in October to 1.77 million tons in November. The latest license data shows finished steel imports at 1.70 million tons in December, potentially the lowest level seen since April 2021.

US Steel Import Trend

Due to large monthly swings in semifinished imports in recent years, the chart below shows total imports on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis in an attempt to more accurately display trends. The 3MMA is 2.22 million tons through preliminary November figures, now at a 20-month low. December license data suggests that the 3MMA could decline further to 2.13 million tons, potentially the lowest level since February 2021. Recall that in January of last year the 3MMA had reached a 42-month high of 2.94 million tons, while the lowest 3MMA level in SMU’s recent history was October 2020 at 1.36 million tons.

US Steel Import Trend

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.

US Steel Import Trend Table

The charts below show monthly imports for two product groups: flat rolled and pipe and tube. Preliminary November flat-rolled imports totaled 819,000 tons, rebounding slightly from September’s 17-month low. December licenses are currently showing 749,000 tons of flat-rolled steel to have entered the country during the month. Pipe and tube imports were 503,000 tons in November, in line with levels seen since March of this year. December pipe and tube licenses are currently at 538,000 tons.

US Steel Import Trend

US Steel Import Trend

PSA: We have an interactive graphing tool available here on our website, where readers can explore historical import data. If you need assistance logging into or navigating the website, contact us at

By Brett Linton,

Brett Linton

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