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Home Depot recruiting military spouses as part of latest hiring effort

ATLANTA — The Home Depot Inc. is recruiting the spouses of military personnel in the latest hiring initiative between the nation's largest home improvement chain and the government.

Home Depot, which averages a new store opening every 48 hours, said its effort with the Defense Department also will involve hiring more veterans, active duty service members about to be discharged, National Guard members and reservists.

If a service member is relocated by the military, Home Depot will try to transfer the person's spouse to a store near the new community, if a job is available.

While the company does not guarantee a job in the new location, Home Depot believes the spouse transfer provision will help reduce attrition in the military because servicemen will be less worried about their spouse's ability to find work.

"It's very difficult for military spouses when the person in the military gets moved, the spouse has to uproot," said Dennis Donovan, Home Depot's human resources chief. "In some cases, it's a retention issue."

Lt. Col. Joe Richard, a Defense Department spokesman, said there are significant challenges that military couples face, especially when it comes to employment issues.

Home Depot will not create new jobs specifically for former military personnel and their spouses, but instead tap the roughly 20,000 jobs that will open up this year through new stores and other growth.

Store associates earn $7 to $20 hourly depending on experience, a company spokesman said. Full- and part-time employees are eligible for health coverage, but the company would not say what percentage it pays toward employees' coverage. Military members and their spouses receive full health coverage from the government.

The latest initiative is not the first time Atlanta-based Home Depot and the government have teamed up on the jobs front.

In 2002, as unemployment was increasing, the government began reaching out to companies like Home Depot to help workers find jobs. Home Depot said then it would work with the Labor Department to help meet its need for 40,000 new full- and part-time jobs that year. Home Depot also has launched a hiring program with AARP, targeting seniors.

Dana Chango, who manages a Clarksville, Tenn., Home Depot, believes the new hiring program will be successful. Her husband, an Army staff sergeant stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., has moved frequently in his military career, and Chango transferred to the Clarksville store from one in California.

"When we first got married, we kind of joked around that part of the deal was I had to work," Chango said. "I didn't know what I would do if I couldn't work. It was just by luck that there were always Home Depots around."