NEW YORK Gerdau Long Steel North America has laid off 13 employees at two of its reinforcing bar mills, citing import pressure and slow economic conditions.
"Due to a surge in rebar imports at a time of slow economic recovery in the U.S., the company was forced to make work force adjustments at our Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., and Midlothian, Texas, mills in August," a Gerdau spokesman told AMM.
This included the layoff of one crew at each of the two sites.
Gerdau was among five domestic rebar producers that filed a petition Sept. 4 seeking investigations into imports of rebar from Turkey and Mexico (amm.com, Sept. 4).
Turkish and Mexican rebar import volumes have ballooned at a time when U.S. construction activity is still in the early stages of recovery following the recession, domestic producers said Sept. 25 at a hearing with the International Trade Commission (ITC) on the rebar trade case. Imports from Turkey and Mexico rose 68.4 percent in 2012 over the previous year to 841,294 tonnes.
As a result, domestic mills have been forced to run at less than 60 percent of capacity this year, according to petitioners data submitted as part of the trade case filing to the ITC. Rebar prices have remained stagnant since summer, at around $645 per ton ($32.25 per hundredweight).
Tampa, Fla.-based Gerdau indicated that it could rehire the workers if it were granted trade relief.
"We would really like to rehire these workers and increase the shipments out of these mills. But for this to happen, Gerdaunot importsmust capture the benefit of any improving demand," Jim Kerkvliet, Gerdaus vice president of commercial sales, said during the ITC hearing. "Granting trade relief will not create construction demand. However, it will allow American workers to benefit if demand recovers."
The Midlothian plant has a rebar capacity of 450,000 tons per year, and Rancho Cucamonga has a furnace capacity of 560,000 tons per year, according to the Association for Iron and Steel Technologys 2012 directory.