More Arkansans are working and fewer are unemployed. That’s the takeaway from the latest monthly jobless report released by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services on Friday.

Arkansas’ March unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a percent to 7.4 percent from February. One year ago, the state’s jobless rate stood at 8 percent. The U.S. unemployment rate in March dropped one-tenth of a percent to 8.2 percent.

State workforce officials said that a net increase in civilian labor boosted the improved rate figure. 5,500 more Arkansans were employed in March, while 1,900 fewer were unemployed. It was the eighth consecutive month of employment growth in Arkansas.

Acxiom has hired former Google Analytics executive Dr. Phil Mui as the company’s chief product and engineering officer. Mui’s position is new for Little Rock-based Acxiom and he will manage a team of more than 750 people. The company said he will "lead the strategic direction, development and management of Acxiom’s global product management and engineering functions." Mui will also play a role in guiding Acxiom’s renewed investment in research and development.

Earlier this year, Acxiom announced the appointment of Warren Jenson, a former CFO for Electronic Arts, Amazon.com, Delta Air Lines and NBC, as chief financial officer, and Nada Stirratt, former chief revenue officer for MySpace and former executive vice president of digital advertising at MTV Networks, as Acxiom’s first chief revenue officer.

Home Bancshares, Inc., parent company of Centennial Bank, posted first-quarter earnings of $14.5 million compared to $12 million one year ago.

The record quarter was a 20 percent jump in net income and it had company leaders enthusiastic and on the prowl for more acquisitions.

"The record earnings reported during the first quarter are outstanding for Home Bancshares," said Chairman John Allison. "We have strong reserves and our capital continues to remain well above the regulators’ capital requirements leaving us open for both FDIC and market acquisition transaction opportunities."

Pine Bluff-based Simmons First National Corp. had a healthy quarter as net income rose to $6.36 million in the first quarter reporting period compared to $5.07 million one year ago. Simmons First CEO Tommy May said loan demand remained troublesome, but he did note signs of improvement.

"Additionally, like the rest of the financial industry in Arkansas, we continue to experience soft loan demand as a result of the overall general economic environment. However, on a positive note, when compared to our last four quarters we see some improvement in loan demand," May said.

Gov. Mike Beebe says it feels like he crammed five years worth of business development into 12 days during his economic trade mission to China. Beebe returned Monday from the Chinese trip.

He said he met with 11 different economic prospects that were in differing stages of possibly investing in Arkansas. Beebe was bullish on two later-stage prospective businesses.

"Two businesses were pretty far along" in their decision-making he said. One of those prospects was a smaller investment — a "foot in the water presence" — while the other was "more capital intensive in its investment."

After more than 40 years of partnership, a desire to take cancer treatment in different directions has led to a split between the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Central Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute (CARTI). The two Little Rock-based health care entities announced Thursday that UAMS would purchase the assets of CARTI on the UAMS campus in Little Rock for $9.5 million.

Last fall, CARTI announced a new partnership with Little Rock Hematology Oncology and Radiation Oncology Associates, P.A. The three groups said they were partnering to form the state’s largest private practice multi-specialty cancer group, which included plans to build a new cancer treatment center in Little Rock.

UAMS, which provides teaching and research specialties in addition to cancer treatment, is in pursuit of a National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation for its Rockefeller Cancer Institute.

USA Truck posted a $4.9 million first-quarter net loss on revenue of $123.6 million, nearly doubling its red ink from one year ago.

The Van-Buren based firm recorded a $2.7 million loss in the first quarter of 2011 behind revenue of $124 million. Calling the results "mixed," CEO Cliff Beckham, said a primary reason for the loss centered on low productivity in its trucking segment due to idle trucks.

Stephens Inc. has expanded its equity research department with a new operation in San Francisco’s financial district. The location will focus on equity research in the specialty finance industry.

The San Francisco office will be staffed by senior analyst John Hecht and research associate Kyle Joseph, both of whom will be focusing on specialty finance, including payday lending, pawn brokers, business development companies and other consumer and commercial finance interests.

Roby Brock, a freelance journalist based in Little Rock, writes weekly for the Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is roby@talkbusiness.net; his Web site address is www.talkbusiness.net.