More than 125,000 military veterans and spouses were hired or trained through a White House partnership with private businesses last year, beating an earlier goal of 100,000 by nearly a year, first lady Michelle Obama announced on Wednesday.
A White House program that started out with just a few companies grew to 2,000 including major corporations, the first lady said.
That has led the White House and the companies involved to set their sights higher — hiring or training an additional 250,000 veterans and military spouses by 2014.
Obama made the announcement at Naval Station Mayport in the presidential campaign battleground state of Florida on Wednesday afternoon.
"I want to send a very clear message to the men and women who are wearing or have worn our country's uniform and to their spouses," Obama said. "When you have finished your service to our nation, you have got 2,000 great American companies ready and waiting to bring you on board."
In addition to the announcement event in Jacksonville, the White House released a new video trumpeting the project on YouTube.
The hiring initiative, called Joining Forces, was first announced last year by President Barack Obama. Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, were asked to lead the effort.
The new goal also includes the hiring or training 50,000 military spouses within three years as well as a previously announced effort to help spouses maintain their careers as families move among duty stations.
"More and more businesses are recognizing that hiring veterans is good for their bottom line, and they are making bold commitments to bring veterans into their ranks," Brad Cooper, executive director of the Joining Forces effort, told The Associated Press.
The White House said the hiring push has helped to reduce unemployment among veterans from 8.6 percent in July 2011 to 6.9 percent last month.
According to U.S. Labor Department figures, the unemployment rate for veterans of the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was 8.9 percent in July 2012, down from 12.4 percent in July 2011. The national rate of unemployment was 8.3 percent in July 2012, down from 8.9 percent in July 2011.
A list of companies who have committed to hire veterans is listed on the White House website.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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