Ups and Downs gives a quick take on news of the week.
UP: Job growth. Montana’s jobless rate inched downward in April to 7.3 percent even as the U.S. rate edged upward to 9 percent. Montana added more than 1,300 private sector jobs in April, while the number of unemployed decreased by 217 people, according to Keith Kelly, state labor commissioner. In the public sector, Montana employment has remained level since February after a yearlong decline.
UP: Adult achievement. Congratulations to the 374 people of all ages who earned high school diplomas or general education development (GED) diplomas this year from Billings Public Schools Adult Education Center. It was the largest annual group of adult ed graduates in memory.
DOWN: Waterlogged. Wheat planting has been delayed in northeastern Montana because the ground is too wet. Flood threats loom across the state with uncommonly plentiful May rain and snowpack in most river basins still double normal.
UP: Delay deserved. Billings trustees decided to wait a month to decide on Superintendent Keith Beeman’s request to extend his two-year contract for another two years before even his first year here is completed. The extension request is a year premature.
DOWN: Equine virus. The outbreak of an especially nasty strain of a common equine virus has been linked to the National Cutting Horse Association’s recent Western championships in Ogden, Utah. Several horses have died as a result of the virus and Western states and provinces are taking action to prevent the spread of the highly contagious virus.
UP: Prudent precautions. Bill and Jann Parker made a tough but courageous call in postponing their Billings Livestock Commission horse sale from May 28-29 till late June due to the potential threat of equine herpes virus-1. Postponement of the $1 million event will be a financial hardship for the Parkers, horse sellers and Billings inns and restaurants. But as Jann Parker told The Gazette: “If we want this to quit, we’ve got to stop moving the horses.” The Parkers plan for more than a two-day sale in June.