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Montana’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 11.3% in April due to the coronavirus  toll on the economy. These number represent the highest jobless rate in the state in more than four decades. Total employment decreased by nearly 56,000 jobs in April. Nearly 18,000

 

As Yellowstone National Park ends a two-month lockdown due to the coronavirus park officials in Yellowstone has spent a large sum of money in recent weeks on sanitizing equipment, finding personal protective gear, modifying boardwalks to spread out foot traffic near thermal features, and posting a great number of signs to promote hygiene and social distancing.

 

HyperBlock Inc, the Canadian company that runs the bitcoin mining facility in Bonner has initiated bankruptcy proceedings. The company’s datacenter in Bonner is now offline and all  operations have ceased.

 

Butte-Silver Bow could become a key cog in the Western power grid in the future as the embracing of renewable energy solutions cuts ties with CO2-producing fuels. Oriden LLC, a venture of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems focused on clean energy production has received the go-ahead to purchase land in Butte that could be used to construct hydrogen production and gas turbine facilities. Butte-Silver Bow commissioners approved an agreement that allows  Oriden up to five years to purchase 160 acres in an industrial park.

 

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox is trying to reverse a Billings judge’s decision that ballots postmarked up to and including the day of the June 2 primary election will be counted. District Court Judge Donald Harris issued a preliminary injunction saying ballots received by Monday, June 8, will be counted in the primary election. Previously under state law, voters had to ensure their ballots were received at local elections offices by 8 p.m. on election day. That’s Tuesday, June 2,  Fox is asking for a stay on Harris’ order, halting the change in deadline, and for the issue to go straight to the Montana Supreme Court for a decision. The lawsuit was brought by the Montana Democratic Party, party chair Robyn Driscoll and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

 

The River’s Edge fly shop, a longtime fishing outfitter in Bozeman has a new downtown location. The new location is in the Nash Finch building at 612 E. Main St.

 

The 2020 Montana State Fair has been cancelled. Cascade County Commissioners said that they did not make this decision lightly. The Montana State Fair hosts an average of 8,000+ people every day. The 2021 Montana State Fair will be July 30–August 7.

 

Montana State University, Billings has postponed the MSU Billings Pow Wow until April 9, 2021. Pow Wow Week will start April 5 and continue through April 10, 2021 to ensure the health and well-being of campus community.

 

A wildlife underpass constructed partially of fifteen concrete arches has begun construction near the Long X bridge outside of Watford City. ND. The $3 million tunnel will protect sheep and other wildlife in the area. The Long X bridge replacement is a $34 million project, and expected to be completed late this year. The project is part of a multi-phase project to improve the safety of Highway 85.

 

The Museum of the Rockies will begin a phased reopening. Starting June 3, the museum will be open to the general public. The museum’s hours will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. 

 

FEMA has awarded a $1.2 million grant to Missoula County. The grant will fund a stream restoration project along the main stem of Ninemile Creek. This project will decrease peak runoff, providing floodplain storage and increasing drought resilience. Agricultural landowners downstream will use it for aquifer storage and increased late season flow. The $1.2 million FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant represents the federal cost-share for the $1.62 million project.  The remaining costs are the responsibility of Missoula County.

 

Apollo Global Management, a private-equity firm has invested $1.75 billion in Albertsons. The investment gives the New York City buyout company and other investors a 17.5% stake in the company through convertible preferred shares. Albertsons, controlled by New York private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management and several real estate investment partners, has long been saddled with a massive amount of debt, including $8.9 billion from the 2015 purchase of Safeway. The pandemic has provided grocery stores a significant boost in business. Albertsons said same-store sales increased 34% during the first eight weeks of its 2020 fiscal year, ending April 25, compared with the same period a year ago. During the four weeks ending March 28, sales jumped 47%.

 

As of May 14, Montana’s self-response rate for the US?Census hovered just above 50%, putting it in 45th place in a ranking of states and territories. The low response is due in part to the cancellation of so many in-person events which the census takers were planning as the “cornerstone” of their outreach efforts. The Census Bureau in April announced it would extend its deadline for self-response to October 31. 

 

The next Sweet Pea Festival, held annually in Bozeman, will not take place this summer. The next Festival will be held August 6-8, 2021.

 

US Senator Jon Tester recently reported that in a report from HighSpeedInternet.com ranks Montana second only to Alaska as having the slowest internet rates in the nation.

 

The low oil prices of the past two months have brought the North Dakota oil patch to a standstill. Previously there were 50 rigs drilling in North Dakota and 25 frac crews but as of May 15, the state’s rig count had fallen to just 12 and only one frac crew operating. As hundreds of oilfield jobs North Dakota have evaporated in the past six weeks, one economic analyst said he expects the job losses to be temporary.

 

The Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration made more than $1 billion available to the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) to support the railroad’s activities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).. Part of the Amtrak route passes through northern Montana.

 

Sidney will soon have a store unlike any other. MiMi’s Kitchen held a grand opening on May 23. Joint owners are Chris and Billie Hillesland and Heidy and Curtis MacGrady. MiMi’s will provide weekly grab and go lunches as well as oven ready meals during the week. MiMi’s will also feature an oil, vinegar, and seasoning tasting station. Cooking classes will also be held in a commercial kitchen.

 

The Montana Department of Transportation is launching the Big Sky Bridge Decks project to improve three bridges in the Big Sky area. Work will start after Memorial Day from May through November.

 

Gallatin County’s residential real estate market held relatively steady in April despite the Coronavirus crisis, with single-family prices increasing compared to last year amid decreases in new listings, pending sales and days on market. According to Claire Gillam, GAR Board President. “Single-family prices are slightly up, homes are still selling at a good clip and sellers are receiving close to 100% of their asking prices.” The median sales price increased 3.5%, from $425,000 in April 2019 to $440,000 in April 2020. The average number of days on market until sale dropped 13.7%, from 73 to 63. The inventory of available homes increased 9.9% compared to last year, from 354 to 389, and the month’s supply of inventory increased 10.7%, from 2.8 to 3.1. Sellers received 99.8% of their list price last month, up slightly from 98.5% last year. The number of new single-family listings decreased 40.2% compared to April 2019, from 214 to 128. Pending sales decreased 30.9%, from 178 to 123, and the number of closed sales dropped 16.1%, from 118 to 99.