Michelle Obama Says 125,000 Veterans, Spouses Are Hired

First lady Michelle Obama said an initiative with more than 2,000 companies has helped 125,000 military veterans and spouses find jobs, beating a goal of 100,000 hires set a year ago.

Obama, who spoke today at Naval Station Mayport in the election battleground state of Florida, set a new goal of hiring an additional 250,000 jobless veterans and spouses by the end of 2014.

The White House Joining Forces Program, headed by the first lady and Jill Biden, the vice president’s wife, began an effort a year ago to help private companies hire jobless veterans. Companies such as Bank of America Corp., Xerox Corp., General Electric Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp. agreed to step up their hiring of veterans.

“As of today, they have hired or trained 125,000 veterans and military spouses -- 125,000,” Obama said. “And they’ve done it more than a year ahead of schedule. That’s pretty impressive.”

The 125,000 hires include 97,000 veterans and 28,000 spouses, according to Semonti Stephens, an Obama spokeswoman.

The number of jobless veterans has declined by 23 percent over the last year to 752,000 in July, down from 975,000 a year earlier, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The jobless rate among veterans fell to 6.9 percent last month, down from 8.6 percent in July 2011 and less than the 8.3 percent national unemployment rate.

The improvement masks persistent high unemployment among younger veterans who have served since 2001, many of them in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While their jobless rate is down from 12.4 percent a year ago, it was 8.9 percent last month.

‘Far From Finished’

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a New York-based veterans support group, said more efforts like the first lady’s initiative are needed.

“America’s work on this urgent issue is far from finished,” Paul Rieckhoff, the group’s founder and executive director, said in a statement. “Over the next few years, more than a million veterans will leave the military in an uncertain economy, and we need a deep commitment from the public and private sectors to prepare for the surge.”

A parallel effort to hire veterans by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has held hundreds of job fairs, has found work for 10,400 veterans and spouses, with a goal of hiring 500,000 veterans and spouses by the end of 2014, said Bryan Goettel, a spokesman for the chamber’s Hiring Our Heroes program.

“We’re just getting started,” Obama said. “And we’re not going to stop until all of our veterans know that when they hit that job market, their skills will be rewarded.”

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