For the second straight month, Arkansas’ labor force declined but in July the employed dropouts outpaced the unemployed dropouts. Arkansas’ unemployment rate rose one-tenth of a percent to 7.3 percent in July. The state rate is nearly a full point below a year ago when unemployment stood at 8.2 percent. The U.S. jobless rate rose one-tenth to 8.3 percent in July.

Arkansas’ civilian labor force declined 3,400, a result of 1,400 more unemployed and 4,800 fewer employed Arkansans, according to the state Department of Workforce Services. The state’s civilian labor force stood at 1,383,000 in July, while the number of unemployed swelled to 100,700, up from 99,300 in June. Arkansas unemployment had not dropped below 100,000 since early 2009 when recession forces pounded the state’s labor market.

Windstream CEO: Building a business ‘for the long run’

Windstream Corp. CEO Jeff Gardner appeared on CNBC’s Mad Money with Jim Kramer show Monday night to discuss the Little Rock-based telecom’s business strategy. Gardner talked about the much- covered transition Windstream is making from a traditional rural wireline telephone company to a fiber-based and cloud-based enterprise firm.

“We’re a different company, Jim,” Gardner said. “We are focused on the enterprise space. You said it earlier, we are not an EPS (earnings per share) company. We generated $1.60 in cash flow per share. Our dividend is very comfortable.”

Freight reports paint picture of slowing economy

A national trucking sector struggling through economic ups and downs hit the middle in July with no change in the American Trucking Associations’ Truck Tonnage Index. The index, considered a barometer of the U.S. economy, didn’t move in July after a slight 1.1percent increase in June. Compared with July 2011, the seasonally-adjusted Truck Tonnage index was 4.1 percent higher, which was the largest year-over-year gain since February. Year-to-date, tonnage was up 3.7 percent.

“July’s reading reflects an economy that has lost some steam, but hasn’t stalled,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said.

Garver Engineers CEO Brock Johnson dies at 63

William Brock Johnson, Garver Engineers CEO, passed away Tuesday after battling cancer for the past several years. The company had recently announced management changes as Johnson’s illness scaled back his daily duties. Johnson served as president and CEO from 2003 to 2012.

“Our company has lost a talented and visionary leader who served as an inspiration to everyone around him, and we are deeply saddened by his death,” said Garver President Dan Williams. “Brock was a respected leader who helped guide Garver through a period of historic growth. Brock also was a great friend and mentor to many, and we miss him dearly. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this very difficult time.”

Large crowd rallies to support 188th fighter wing

The Fort Smith community sent a message to U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., on Tuesday night at the Defending Our Defenders Listening Session. Forbes, chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, is reviewing possible scale backs and closures of military units across the country in an effort to reduce federal government spending.

The Fort Smith-based 188th Fighter Wing could possibly be closed as a result of cuts to defense spending.

On Tuesday night, hundreds of citizens, including civic leaders, city employees, retired members of the 188th Fighter Wing, and families of currently deployed soldiers in the 188th, crowded into the Arkansas Best Performing Arts Center, a part of the Fort Smith Convention Center, to hear from Forbes, members of the Arkansas congressional delegation and Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, among others.

Community Health, Blue Cross resume negotiations

While no agreement has been reached, the parent company of Northwest Medical System has decided to honor its existing contract with Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield beyond Sept. 1. Franklin, Tenn.-based Community Health Systems had previously said it would quit doing business with ABCBS after the insurer would not agree to rate increases for services. Community Health owns seven hospitals and clinics in Northwest Arkansas as well as facilities in El Dorado, Forrest City, Helena-West Helena and Newport.

Romney raises more than $2 million in Arkansas

Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney attended a series of fundraisers in Little Rock on Wednesday, collecting more than $2 million. Romney held multiple photo opportunities with donors at the Peabody and Capital hotels. The fundraising haul was touted as the single biggest Republican political fundraiser in Arkansas history.

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