Wesley Brown/ Talk Business & Politics

Wesley Brown is the Business Editor for Talk Business & Politics. He can be reached by email at wesbrocomm@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @BrownOnBusiness.

Although Arkansas’ unemployment rate hit an all-time low in February, the percentage of unemployed working-age blacks across the state has steadfastly remained in double-digits following the Great Recession – dropping below 10% only a few times in the past nine years, according to jobless data culled from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Darci Vetter U.S. Trade Representative
Arkansas Farm Bureau web stream

Darci Vetter, one of the Obama administration’s key negotiators for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, is making her case in Arkansas for the necessity of getting congressional approval of the controversial trade pact by the end of 2016.

Vetter, chief Agriculture Negotiator for the Office of the United States Trade Representative, outlined pros and cons of the 12-nation trade deal and why she believed it is important.

Although the manufacturing sector in Arkansas and the rest of the U.S. has been mired in a recent slump, a new report from Oxford Economics says U.S. productivity from the blue collar-friendly segment of the economy is still the strongest in the world and will maintain its competitive edge over China and other economies.

Arkansas Nuclear One

In an annual evaluation of the nation’s commercial nuclear plants, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Entergy Arkansas’ Nuclear One and Two units in Russellville were among three reactors that require increased oversight because of two safety findings of “substantial significance” in 2015.

Arkansas’ job market got off to a strong start in 2016 as the state’s jobless rate fell three percentage points in January as more than 6,000 workers were added to the state’s growing labor pool, according to the figures released Monday by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Natural Gas Drilling Mt. Vernon in Faulkner County
Arkansas Times

BHP Billiton’s Fayetteville Shale operations posted a loss of $102 million in the second half of fiscal 2015 as the mining giant suspended its drilling operations and announced plans for further spending cuts in its U.S. oil and gas operations for the third time in the past year.

Natural Gas Drilling Mt. Vernon in Faulkner County
Arkansas Times

While declining crude oil prices have roiled international markets, natural gas futures have quietly plummeted to levels not seen in this century and is pushing many companies in the energy sector closer to bankruptcy every day, industry experts say.

On Thursday, natural gas futures for April delivery closed down 6.4 cents or 3.7% at $1.678 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) on NYMEX. That is the lowest settlement prices for natural gas contracts since Feb. 26, 1999, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Arkansas saw double-digit growth in revenue collections in February as fewer taxpayers received income tax refunds and the state’s predicted surplus from the recently revised fiscal 2016 forecast continued to grow.

According to the state Department of Finance and Administration’s monthly revenue report released Wednesday, February net available general revenue totaled $279.9 million, $61.6 million or a whopping 28.2% above last year and $31.8 million or 12.8% above forecast.

gas-to-liquids GTL

Little Rock-based Energy Security Partners LLC and Pine Bluff officials announced Tuesday that Jefferson County is being considered as the top location to build and operate a potential $3.7 billion industrial gas-to-liquids processing facility.

Lockheed Martin Corp.’s was recently awarded a $198.7 million boost to a previous multimillion dollar contract that will enhance production on an anti-ballistic system that President Obama recently touted as a deterrent to North Korea’s nuclear threat.