WASHINGTON — Assuring military veterans that “America has your back,” first lady Michelle Obama announced commitments from companies Thursday to hire 100,000 veterans and military spouses by 2014.
“That’s 100,000 veterans and spouses who will have the security of a paycheck and good career,” Mrs. Obama said in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “That’s thousands of families that can rest just a little bit easier every night.”
The first lady and the vice president’s wife, Jill Biden, launched their Joining Forces initiative in April to try to motivate citizens, businesses, nonprofits and community groups to do more to support military families.
It has resulted in the hiring of 16,000 veterans and spouses, and pledges to hire an additional 25,000.
Thursday’s announcement of 100,000 additional job commitments for military families includes plans to hire at least 5,000 wounded veterans.
At the same time, the first lady announced an online Veterans Job Bank tool to help veterans and spouses search for jobs with military-friendly employers. The tool has identified 550,000 job postings.
Mrs. Obama said the new efforts are “part of a wave of support forming that stretches across this country.”
She spoke at a conference on hiring veterans that was organized by the Chamber.
The group has had a prickly relationship with the Obama White House, differing over policies on job creation, taxes and regulation. The first lady got a polite but reserved reception from the audience in the partially filled auditorium.
More than a dozen veterans who’ve been hired through Chamber of Commerce hiring fairs for veterans were on hand. They included 33-year-old Dwayne Simmons, who said he had an “interview-to-hire moment” at a hiring fair two weeks ago and is bound for the Sam’s Club manager training program in Tulsa, Okla.
The Purple Heart recipient just wound up 15 years in the Army, including five tours in Iraq.
Brad Cooper, executive director of Joining Forces, said the effort to encourage hiring of veterans and spouses has exceeded expectations. Companies are adjusting their goals upward after meeting initial hiring targets and finding that military families provide skilled and loyal workers.
Some of the jobs for veterans represent net job growth, while others are a result of turnover, he said.
Unemployment is particularly high among veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Labor Department estimates that 12.1 percent of veterans who served in the military since the Sept. 11 attacks were unemployed in October. That compares with the national rate of 9 percent.
Among veterans under the age of 24, the rate was closer to 22 percent.
The latest hiring commitments include plans by the International Franchise Association, which represents 1,100 franchises, to hire 80,000 veterans and spouses by 2014. That number includes 5,000 wounded warriors.
Steve Caldeira, president of the franchise association, said the structured nature of franchises and their need for employees committed to “operational excellence” make them a good fit for those trained in the military. Examples of franchises that have made hiring pledges include the UPS Store, Arby’s, TSS Photography, FASTSIGNS, Mr. Rooter, TeamLogic and Valpak.
Mrs. Obama also announced that the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, which began last summer and is made up of nearly 100 companies and organizations, had committed to hire 20,000 military spouses.
The organization includes companies such as Microsoft Corp. and Home Depot, and franchises such as Data Doctors and Guidant Financial.