WASHINGTON, April 6 (UPI) -- U.S. military spouses have more hope for jobs near bases, first lady Michelle Obama said this week when she announced a Joining Forces initiative to work with 11 companies that will provide 15,000 jobs over the next few years.
"When the next set of orders comes in for these families, and they have to move across the country, they'll be able to move these jobs with them," Obama said in a conference call with reporters.
The jobs at companies around the United States aim to help military spouses find work near bases where their partners are stationed. Most of the jobs, which are in telecommuting or customer support, will offer flexible hours so parents can work from home and be available for personal commitments.
Twenty-six percent of military spouses are unemployed, U.S. Department of Defense statistics indicate. Moving from state to state is a challenge for professionals who have to register licenses in different states or who cannot find work in their field when they relocate.
With her announcement, Obama stressed that flexibility and portability are the future of jobs for families that are juggling so much. Veteran and military family job seekers are often not willing or able to move for a job, a representative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said.
That's why other government groups are working to connect veterans with employers near where they live.
"The work being done to get commitments from public and private sectors to hire spouses has been extraordinary," said Ross Cohen, senior director for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Hiring our Heroes program.
The unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans remained elevated at 12.1 percent in 2011, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated. This is nearly 40 percent higher than the national average of 8.3 percent. Unemployment is highest among veterans aged 18 to 24, many of whom left their hometowns straight out of high school.
The Chamber of Commerce coordinates career fairs around the country. In collaboration with about 1,400 local and state chambers of commerce, Cohen said the fairs attract employers who are able to hire locally. He said there are waiting lists for employers who want to participate and the chamber has increased the number of career fairs from 100 last year to 400 scheduled this year.
U.S. President Barack Obama has offered incentives to companies that hire veterans. Last November, he signed into law the Vow to Hire Heroes Act, which authorized the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for employers who hire veterans. Employers can receive credits ranging from $2,400 for each new adult hire to $4,800 for each new disabled veteran hire and up to $9,000 for other long-term hires.
One reason employers balk at hiring service members is the chance they might be called up for duty, said Ted Daywalt, president and chief executive officer of vetjobs.com. This is especially true for members of the National Guard and Army Reserves. With 140,000 troops expected to come off active duty this year, Daywalt said the competition for jobs among veterans might increase in certain parts of the country.
But the country is stepping up, Michelle Obama said. Joining Forces, the initiative led by Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, to create job opportunities for service members and their families, marks its first anniversary this month.