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Walmart wants more veterans in its ranks

Walmart, the world's largest retailer, wants to help reduce the veteran unemployment rate nationwide by hiring more veterans in their first 12 months after active duty. Employment will be available in stores, distribution centers and at it's Bentonville, Ark., headquarters.

Driving down First Street East in Dickinson, nothing at first glance seemed amiss Tuesday morning -- workers rushed through crosswalks in suits and heels just before 8 a.m. like they do every weekday morning, as the American flag at the U.S. Post Office waved above the traffic.

Dozens of Old Glory's hanging on street poles nearby only days before were gone, a reminder that Memorial Day was over and it was back to the daily grind.

Yet, the return to normalcy for many Dickinson area veterans means maneuvering the same challenges -- employment, emotional and educational hurdles -- they have been up against since returning home to begin life again as a civilian, a start that often brings them to the Job Service North Dakota office in Dickinson.

"We see a variety of veterans come through our office, some from other states that have come here looking for work, too," said Mary Urlacher, Job Service office manager in Dickinson.

The office also has access to the Bismarck office's veteran representatives, who make monthly visits.

When the Bismarck office representatives are not available, Urlacher said Keith Kilber, a veteran in the Dickinson office, assists with questions.

"There are also six people in our local office, so we meet them one-on-one to see what their needs and skills are and how they relate to what jobs are available," Urlacher said, adding that some jobseekers choose not to disclose their veteran status, so an exact number of veterans coming through the office is unknown.

Last year, veterans in North Dakota made up 10.5 percent of the state's population and post-9/11 veterans accounted for 3.5 percent of North Dakota's unemployed residents, according to the Joint Economic Committee.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans at that time was 9.9 percent.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate among Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans was 7.5 percent in April, down from 9.2 percent the year before.

That compares to the national civilian unemployment rate of 6.9 percent in April, down from 7.6 percent the year before, according to the BLS.

Because unemployment rate production for veterans is not a regular product, Michael Ziesch, manager of Job Service North Dakota's Labor Market Information Center, said the relative standard error is quite large and does not follow all of the standards and scope of the official unemployment rate series.

The current unemployment rate for Stark County is 1.7 percent and Urlacher said there are 1,580 job openings available in the region.

With the goal of employing as many returning veterans as possible, Walmart hopes to put a dent in that figure with its initiative, Veterans Welcome Home Commitment, which officially began on Memorial Day.

The world's largest retailer plans to offer employment to any veteran who has been honorably discharged within the first 12 months they are off duty, which could make a difference in the veteran unemployment rate.

Walmart's effort is expected to put more than 100,000 warriors to work during the next five years in stores, including in Dickinson, as well as at distribution centers and the company's home office in Bentonville, Ark.

Delia Garcia, Walmart spokeswoman, said the effort is to benefit both veterans and the cities and towns across the country where they live, work and play.

"As a global retailer, Walmart has the opportunity to contribute to something larger that positively affects our local community in Dickinson," Garcia said. "The Veterans Welcome Home Commitment allows us to identify future talent while giving back to those who serve our country."