Steel crisis

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The steel crisis was a recession in the global steel market during the 1970s recession, following the end of the post-World War II economic boom and the 1973 oil crisis.

Steel production had increased exponentially since the industrial revolution, and demand had been especially high during the world wars. Steel prices significantly dropped as the market became saturated with steel, and many steel mills in the Western world were driven out of business.

Some areas affected by the steel crisis were the Rust belt in North America, the English Midlands in the United Kingdom, the Ruhr area in West Germany and Bergslagen in Sweden. The U.S. city of Youngstown, Ohio was among the hardest-hit areas of the steel crisis, with the announced closure of Youngstown Sheet and Tube on September 19, 1977 still known to locals as Black Monday; as of July 2013, Youngstown still hasn't recovered from the steel crisis.[1]


In Britain, according to Blair (1997) the industry was again nationalized in 1967, under the Labour government. But British Steel (BSC) had serious problems, including complacency with existing obsolescent plants (plants operating under capacity and thus at low efficiency); outdated technology; price controls that reduced marketing flexibility; soaring coal and oil costs; lack of capital investment funds; and increasing competition on the world market. By the 1970s the government adopted a policy of keeping employment artificially high in the declining industry. This especially impacted BSC since it was a major employer in a number of depressed regions. In the 1980s under the Conservatives BSC was re-privatized as British Steel. Under private control the company sharply cut its work force, made a radical reorganization, and injected a huge capital investment to again become competitive in the world marketplace.[2]


  1. ^ Steven High | Capital and Community Reconsidered: The Politics and Meaning of Deindustrialization | Labour/Le Travail, 55. The History Cooperative. Retrieved on 2010-12-23.
  2. ^ Blair (1997)


  • Blair, Alasdair M. "The British iron and steel industry since 1945," Journal of European Economic History Winter 1997, Vol. 26 Issue 3, pp 571-81
  • Dudley, G. F., and J. J. Richardson, eds. Politics and Steel in Britain, 1967-1988: The Life and Times of the British Steel Corporation (1990)
  • Evans, I. M. "Aspects of the Steel Crisis in Europe, with Particular Reference to Belgium and Luxembourg," Geographical Journal Vol. 146, No. 3 (Nov., 1980), pp. 396-407 in JSTOR
  • Meny, Yves, and Vincent Wright, eds. The Politics of Steel: Western Europe and the Steel Industry in the Crisis Years (1987) excerpt and text search
  • Rhodes, Martin; Wright, Vincent. "The European Steel Unions and the Steel Crisis, 1974-84: A Study in the Demise of Traditional Unionism," British Journal of Political Science, Apr 1988, Vol. 18 Issue 2, pp 171-195 in JSTOR
  • Scheuerman, William. The Steel Crisis: The Economics and Politics of a Declining Industry (1986)