U.S. Steel to lay off 1,500 and close factories near Detroit

U.S. Steel Corp will indefinitely idle major operations at factories near Detroit, the company said Thursday.

The Pittsburgh-based company said it would send notices to 1,545 employees at Great Lakes Works, although it anticipates that the actual number of people affected will be lower.

U.S. Steel said it expects to begin idling the iron and steel-making facilities around April 1 and the hot strip mill rolling facility before the end of 2020. Great Lakes Works, which serves the auto industry, is along the Detroit River in River Rouge and Ecorse, Michigan.

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U.S. Steel has struggled over the past year, laying off 200 workers in Michigan and idling some plants. The company has been losing market share to competitors like Nucor with more modern operations, and its stock has fallen two-thirds since the start of last year.

Analysts at UBS predicted that the pain isn’t over. “As steel prices decline, U.S. Steel will likely shut down capacity and focus on a shrinking product portfolio where blast furnaces still have a competitive advantage over electric arcs,” UBS wrote in a note.

Peter Navarro, the president’s trade adviser, likewise blamed the closure on U.S. Steel’s management and operations, defending the White House trade policy to CNN.

“U.S. Steel did not adapt with the times. They’re paying for it dearly,” he told the outlet.

He added, “We are very bullish on the steel and aluminum industries because of the tariffs. If they weren’t in place, those industries would be in very bad shape right now, but they’re not.”

Some work from the Michigan plants will shift to Gary Works in Gary, Indiana, said David Burritt, U.S. Steel’s president and chief executive.

“These decisions are never easy nor are they taken lightly,” Burritt said in a written statement. “However, we must responsibly manage our resources while also strengthening our company’s long-term future — a future many stakeholders depend on.”

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