BRUSSELS (AP) -- ArcelorMittal SA, the world's largest steel maker, said Wednesday it would not lift its sharp production cuts as long as steel demand remains low and until stocks are used up.
The company cut back output by 45 percent in both the fourth quarter last year and the first quarter this year. Maintaining the level of production unchanged implies another 45 percent cut in the second quarter.
Demand for the steel that goes into new cars, buildings and machinery has slumped during the economic downturn as companies and households cut back on big purchases.
ArcelorMittal said it met with European trade unions Wednesday and promised them that all production suspensions are temporary and will be reviewed on a regular basis. It said machinery would be maintained to allow a swift restart when market conditions improve.
"In light of the ongoing exceptional economic environment, it is necessary to continue to suspend and optimize production to ensure the company is well adapted to the market reality," it said in a statement.
It gave no details of any new job cuts or plant closures, but said it would honor commitments to discuss cutbacks with workers.
ArcelorMittal is shedding some 9,000 of its 320,000 workers by offering voluntary redundancies and said it would extend this program from white collar employees to some production staff.
It shuttered plants in France, Belgium and Germany during the winter and laid off temporary staff.
Eurofer -- a steel federation representing ArcelorMittal SA, Corus and ThyssenKrupp AG -- said one in six European steel workers have either lost their jobs or are working shorter hours. It said the downturn has hit 72,000 jobs or 17 percent of the European Union's 440,000-strong steel work force.