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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Pierce tied for the lowest unemployment rate in the state for May

Unemployment went down last month in ten of Wisconsin's 12 metro areas.  New figures released yesterday show that none of the metros saw their actual unadjusted jobless rates increase.  Milwaukee held steady from the previous month at six-percent, and Madison's rate stayed the same at four-percent -- the state's lowest.  Racine had the highest metro jobless rate at seven-and-a-half percent.  Unemployment also dropped in 69 of the state's 72 counties, and remained steady in Dane, Milwaukee, and Ozaukee counties.  Menominee had the state's highest county jobless rate at 15-point-one percent.  Dane and Pierce counties were the lowest at three-point-eight.


For the first time, Hispanics have become Wisconsin's largest minority group.  The U-S Census Bureau said Latinos made up six-point-three-four percent of the state's population last year.  Almost 364-thousand Hispanics now call Wisconsin home, four times more than in 1980.  African-Americans, traditionally the state's largest minority, fell to the second-largest.  They make up six-point-two-six percent of the total population.  Whites now make up 82-and-a-half percent of the state's total.  Overall, the Census Bureau said Wisconsin has just under one-percent more people than it did in 2010.  The Badger State attracted 53-thousand total residents in the past three years, but it has fewer young people.  The statewide total for those 19-and-under dropped by two-point-two percent since 2010.  However, Hispanics in that age group grew by five-point-seven percent.  U-W Milwaukee associate professor Enrique Figueroa said Hispanics became the state's largest minority faster than he expected.  He said a large part of Wisconsin's workforce will be Hispanic in 20 years -- and schools need to beef up their education and training to Latinos now. 


A Powerball ticket sold in Sheboygan won a million-dollars in last night's drawing.  The ticket matched all five regular numbers, but not the Powerball, to win the game's second prize.  Florida had the only other million-dollar winner last evening.  Almost eight-thousand Wisconsin players won smaller prizes ranging from four-dollars to 400.  The numbers were 10, 20, 25, 50, and 53.  The Powerball was 35, and the Power Play multiplier was four.  Nobody won the jackpot, so it goes up to 80-million dollars for Saturday night.  In Mega Millions, the top prize stands at 33-million dollars for tomorrow night.


Another tornado apparently touched down in southern Wisconsin yesterday afternoon.  The National Weather Service said law enforcement reported a small twister on the ground for about a minute, about two miles north of Albany in Green County.  Media reports said a power line had a minor fire, roof shingles blew off, and tree branches broke.  More than a half-dozen tornadoes touched down in southwest and south central Wisconsin last Monday and Tuesday -- the first in the state this year, in what's been a late-arriving tornado season.  Also yesterday, the Weather Service reported up to one-and-a-quarter-inch hail in parts of Dane and Sauk counties.  A partly cloudy and dry day is in the statewide forecast for today, with highs ranging from the mid-60's to around 80.


A state panel has approved an 80-mile natural gas pipeline to serve future frac-sand mines in western Wisconsin.  The Public Service Commission voted 2-to-1 yesterday to let We Energies' Wisconsin Gas division build the new lateral from Tomah to Eau Claire.  The utility says the new line will help the region's economy by accommodating the growth of silica-sand mining.  We Energies says it's possible that up to five new mines -- with up to 400 jobs -- could open within six years after the gas line goes in.  The project will cost at least 180-million dollars.  The P-S-C says it will add 24-dollars a year to the bills of We Energies' gas customers in most of Wisconsin outside of Metro Milwaukee.  Commissioner Eric Callisto said it's too expensive for the utility customers.  He questioned whether the pipeline network would be overbuilt if the projected mines don't open.  The other commissioners said the panel could re-review the project if gas sales don't meet their projections.  The new pipeline will start going in next year.


The chancellor at U-W Platteville now says it might cost over ten-million dollars to repair the damage from a tornado which hit the campus ten days ago.  Dennis Shields says three dormitories and the engineering building should be repaired by August 15th, when students will start moving in for fall classes that begin September 2nd.  He said the football stadium's artificial surface will have to be replaced, along with some seating areas and light poles.  Coaches are confident the stadium can be fixed by mid-September.  The Platteville Pioneers are scheduled to play their first home football game on September 15th, and a few soccer matches might have to be re-located.  Shields was in Beijing China on business when the tornado hit late last Monday night.  He said insurance would cover most of the damage, but not dozens of trees knocked down in a campus park.  About 200 summer school students and hundreds more summer camp participants were on campus when the tornado hit.  The chancellor credited dorm staffers and rescuers for keeping them safe.  He said nobody got anything worse than bumps and bruises.  


It's safer than it used to be to eat coho-and-chinook salmon from Lake Michigan.  A new study by the state D-N-R shows that levels of cancer-causing P-C-B's have dropped from those fish ever since the industrial chemical was banned in the late 1970's.  In the Journal of Great Lakes Research, D-N-R scientists said P-C-B's on the skins of coho salmon dropped by 24-percent from 1975-through-'86, while the contaminant levels fell by 17-percent in chinook.  Since then, the P-C-B levels have kept dropping -- but not nearly as fast.  State resource officials still advise people to limit their intake of coho-and-chinook salmon to one meal a month.  That, too, is better than it was before 2012 -- when the D-N-R advised folks to only eat chinook salmon six times a year. 


A state panel took a major step yesterday toward scaling back Wisconsin's Stewardship program, which preserves nature and recreation lands.  At a meeting in Milwaukee, the Natural Resources Board approved the sale of ten-thousand acres of public nature lands, to be completed by mid-2017.  Republicans ordered the move as part of the state budget they passed a year ago.  Their goal is to reduce the debt incurred by the purchase of Stewardship lands.  It was noted that the ten-thousand acres represent only a small share of the one-point-eight million acres of state-owned nature lands.  D-N-R Secretary Cathy Stepp said the 25-year-old program has "done wonders" for the state's natural resources -- and the new measures are designed to ensure continued new recreation opportunities throughout the state.  Republicans say the program's debt has spun out of control.  Democrats fear the cuts will reduce recreational opportunities.  Environmental groups lament that nature has become polarized, like much of Wisconsin politics.