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BY corinna petry

020 came in like a wrecking ball. We have the scourge of COVID-19 (the worst four syllables heard in our lifetimes), mass protests seeking justice, murder hornets, a plague of locusts, a tumultuous election, wildfires burning Australia, California, Colorado and Siberia. An explosion in Beirut’s port leveled nearly the entire city. We are experiencing lockdowns, quarantines and hybrid schooling.

Do you remember the near miss Earth had with an asteroid in September? Yeah, it was below the ring of geostationary satellites orbiting our planet. Luckily, it was only the size of a school bus and would probably have burned up in the atmosphere. We lost Sean Connery, Chadwick Boseman, Kobe Bryant and Eddie Van Halen. The Pentagon released UFO videos—no one even paid attention to that.

The good news is we know what we look like with long hair and gnarly beards (like Tolkien’s hobbits and dwarves), we learned to bake bread, we spent waaaaay more time with our children, took long walks in the park and rode bikes. We learned how to disinfect everything. We learned to WFH productively. We also learned how to reach out to others to combat isolation.

Businesses, too, are communicating in different ways. They use platforms like Zoom, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams. Metals associations and metals companies are hosting virtual trade shows, video sales calls and informational webinars.

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On the other hand, commodity aluminum prices were spiking in October and November and mill lead times have reportedly lengthened well into the first quarter. The CRU benchmark price for carbon steel hot-rolled coil exceeded $700 a ton in early November, mill capacity utilization rates were said to be rising and flat-rolled order books were opened for January.
the u.s. jobless rate fell to 6.9 percent in october, from 7.9 percent in september.
“Historically low inventory throughout the industry and at end users, combined with temporary and potentially permanent mill shutdowns has extended lead times and created near-term shortages in key products and in certain markets,” Olympic Steel Inc. CEO Richard Marabito told shareholders on Nov. 5.
October’s jobs report from the U.S. Census Bureau indicated that the unemployment rate fell to 6.9 percent, from September’s 7.9 percent, and that the number of people on temporary layoff fell by 1.4 million to 3.2 million. Manufacturing employment rose by 38,000 in October but is 621,000 lower than in February. Gains occurred in fabricated metal products (+7,000) and primary metals (+6,000).

Although coronavirus cases are soaring again, and Chicago’s mayor basically canceled the “large family gathering” portion of Thanksgiving, certain vaccine trials are going very well. Metals continues to be an essential industry, and people are going back to work, albeit with gloves, masks, social distancing and health screenings.

A new year presents hope. We hope our readers, their families and their businesses are able to hit the restart button in 2021. We hope your holidays are filled with joy to balance out the sorrows we’ve all witnessed. Stay safe.