NEW YORK -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Tuesday pledged to hire all honorably discharged U.S. veterans and buy an additional $50 billion in U.S. products in the coming decade.
The initiative to offer jobs to veterans within a year of leaving active duty may result in about 100,000 hires in the next five years, Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart said in a statement. About two-thirds of Wal-Mart's products are made, sourced or grown in the United States, the company said.
The world's largest retailer said the hiring and sourcing pledges are meant to create jobs in the U.S., where the unemployment rate has been higher than 7 percent for more than four years. The retailer has about about 1.4 million employees in the country, according to a regulatory filing.
"It's a good pool of labor that fits well into how Walmart runs its business, with potential associates that are accustomed to a chain of command, standard operating procedures, disciplined scheduling," Colin McGranahan, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York, said in an email. "It also generates positive PR for Walmart at a time when the company could certainly use some."
The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice are probing allegations that Wal-Mart bribed officials to speed its expansion in Mexico. The company also has been criticized following reports that its suppliers were making garments at a Bangladesh factory where more than 100 people died in a November blaze.
First Lady Michelle Obama and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., praised Wal-Mart's hiring plan in statements released by the company and asked other businesses to follow its lead in helping veterans.
Aside from the positive publicity, the initiative could generate as much as $960 million in tax breaks for the retailer.