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Arkansas jobless rate falls as labor force shrinks

<p>Roby Brock</p>

Roby Brock

Arkansas’ jobless rate fell in June to 7.2 percent as more workers exited the labor force and unemployment rolls. The 7.2 percent June unemployment rate was one-tenth of a percent lower than May and nine-tenths of a percent below June 2011 when the jobless rate was 8.1 percent. The Arkansas Department of Workforce Services reported that nearly 2,300 more workers dropped out of the civilian workforce and 1,900 fewer workers were categorized as unemployed. The net difference accounted for the drop in the unemployment rate.

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Simmons First National Corp. reported second-quarter net income of $6.5 million, slightly below the $6.7 million it earned one year ago.

“We continue to benefit significantly from strong asset quality, which has resulted in a reduction in our provision for loan losses, and from our on-going efficiency initiatives that resulted in a decrease in our non-interest expense,” said J. Thomas May, chairman and CEO.

Total loans for the Pine Bluff-based bank, including those covered by FDIC loss share agreements, were $1.7 billion at June 30, a decrease of $98 million compared to the same period in 2011.

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Deltic Timber Corp. reported second-quarter net income of $3.5 million, up 71% percent from a year ago when quarterly profits topped $2 million. The El Dorado-based timber and real estate firm saw revenue jump 15 percent to $37.1 million for the quarter compared to $32.2 million one year ago.

Deltic said part of its strong performance in the second quarter was due to significantly improved operating results in its mills segment, “which benefited from a higher average lumber sales price and an increased lumber sales volume when compared to the same period of 2011.” Deltic, which sees fluctuating business conditions from the housing and real estate markets, said it would be cautious for the rest of the year.

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PAM Transportation Services Inc. reported net income of $934,791 for the quarter ended June 30, an improvement from year-ago earnings when the Tontitown-based trucking firm posted a $692,000 profit.

For the first six months of 2012, PAM. is reporting net income of $1.6 million compared to a $1.28 million net loss during the first six months of 2011. Revenues eclipsed $94.15 million during the quarter, down 1.8 percent compared to second-quarter 2011 revenues of $95.89 million. At the six-month mark, P.A.M. revenues are up 5.2 percent to $190.31 million.

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Enviro Tech Chemical Services Inc., a chemical company focused on food safety and water treatment, announced plans to expand its Helena-West Helena manufacturing facility. The company plans to invest $4 million and will add 40 new jobs, bringing total employment in Helena-West Helena to more than 70 people. Enviro Tech first announced it would locate a manufacturing facility in Helena-West Helena in October 2011, with $1.5 million in investment and 30 new jobs originally announced.

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The New York Times reports that a bipartisan congressional panel will open an inquiry into the data brokerage industry, and Little Rock-based Acxiom is one of the targets of the effort.

Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Massachusetts, and Rep. Joe L. Barton, R-Texas, co-chairmen of the Bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus sent letters of inquiry to Acxiom and 8 of its competitors. In the letters, the legislators requested extensive information about how the companies amass, refine, sell and share consumer data. Acxiom says it looks forward to complying with the requests.

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Sheffield Nelson said he would suspend his campaign to raise the state’s severance tax to a flat 7 percent. Nelson, whose organization is called the Committee for A Fair Severance Tax, has been collecting signatures to qualify the tax hike for the November ballot.

The effort had more than 70 percent of its petition signatures invalidated last week by the Secretary of State’s office and a number of those signatures appear to have been fraudulently obtained. On Tuesday, Nelson told reporters that meeting the extended signature deadline — more than 41,000 valid signatures in the next 30 days — would be difficult to achieve.

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Roby Brock, a freelance journalist based in Little Rock, writes a column for the Arkansas News Bureau. His weekly television program airs at 10 p.m. Sundays in Central Arkansas. His e-mail address is roby@talkbusiness.net; his website address is www.talkbusiness.net.

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