WASHINGTON — Officials from the Joining Forces campaign say they have helped 125,000 veterans and military spouses find jobs in the last year and are setting a new goal of getting another 250,000 hired in coming years.
First lady Michelle Obama announced the jobs figures at her appearance at Naval Station Mayport in Florida on Wednesday. She identified several new companies committed to hiring veterans. The campaign had already secured more than 175,000 commitments for veteran hires this year.
Officials said the hiring numbers are a positive sign, not just of public efforts to find veterans jobs but also of corporate interest in their skills and talents.
“They’ve learned what you all have to offer,” the first lady told the troops at Mayport on Wednesday. “These companies are not making these decisions just because it’s the right thing to do – which it is. They’re doing it because it’s the smart thing to do for their bottom lines.
“If you can repair a helicopter engine in Mayport … then clearly you have what it takes for manufacturing. If you can operate communications equipment from a tent in Afghanistan, then clearly you’re ready to succeed in our high-tech industries here at home.”
While the national unemployment rate has dipped only slightly in the last 12 months, the veterans unemployment rate has dropped from 8.6 percent to 6.9 percent. Joining Forces officials noted that the number of unemployed veterans fell by more than 220,000 since July 2012.
However, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that the number of veterans of working age fell by almost 430,000 over the last year, casting doubt over whether the positive unemployment news is just a statistical correction.
Last August, Obama and Joining Forces staffers announced plans to convince companies to hire 100,000 veterans and military spouses by then end of 2013. Since then, the campaign has held frequent press conferences and base events to highlight their progress.
Among the biggest successes came in February, when officials from 29 companies — including JPMorgan Chase, AT&T, Delta airlines — announced their 100,000 Jobs Mission with Joining Forces, pledging to make that many veteran hires by 2020.
Joining Forces officials said targets like those encouraged them to set their sights higher. The new push will be to find jobs for 200,000 more veterans by the end of 2014, and 50,000 more military spouse positions by the end of 2016.
A full list of commitments made by companies is available on the Joining Forces website at http://www.whitehouse.gov/joiningforces/commitments.