Shipments of steel and aluminum from service centers declined in North America during January, getting the current year “off to a slow start,” according to the Metals Service Center Institute. The results are contained in the trade association’s Monthly Activity Report for January, part of a series based on actual shipment data reported by the group’s members.

The MAR presents data on total shipments for steel and aluminum products in the U.S. and Canada, and includes monthly averages for shipments on a tons-per-day basis. Also, the MSCI calculates the total volume of inventories that service centers report at the closing of each month to estimate their supply levels according to current daily shipping rates.

Steel shipments trail — U.S. service centers shipped 3.6 million tons of steel products during January, which represented an improvement of 43.9% over the 2.53 million tons shipped in December 2012. However, the new figure also shows a decline of 2.1% versus the January 2012 total, 3.7 million tons shipped. 2013. This represents a decrease of 2.1% from January 2012.

Steel product inventories for U.S. service centers stood at 8.7 million tons as January closed, rising 2.2% over December’s reported inventories, but decreasing 0.4% from the January 2012 inventory level.

At the current shipping rate, MSCI estimated that U.S. centers are carrying 2.4 months of steel products in inventory, an increase of 1.8% from the January 2012 supply estimate.

In Canada, service centers’ January steel shipments rose 54.2% to 522,300 tons, up from 338,600 tons shipped during December 2012. Yet, the new figure indicated a decrease of 6.9% from January 2012.

Steel product inventories were reported at nearly 1.8 million tons at the end of January, decreasing 3.2% from the previous month but increasing 5.7% from January 2012. The latest total computes as a 3.4-month supply of steel at the Canadian centers’ current shipping rate, an increase of 13.5% over the January 2012 supply level.