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Obama says Walmart, Apple, others commit to help jobless

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(CNN) — The White House has secured commitments from some of the nation’s largest companies for a plan to boost hiring of the long-term unemployed.

“What we have done is to gather together 300 companies, just to start with, including, some of the top 50 companies in the country, companies like Walmart, and Apple, Ford and others, to say let’s establish best practices,” President Barack Obama told CNN Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper in an exclusive interview.

“Because they’ve been unemployed … so long, folks are looking at that gap in the resume and they’re weeding them out before these folks even get a chance for an interview,” said Obama.

As the economy slowly recovers from the recession, the number of workers who have not found a job for at least six months or more has grown.

“Do not screen people out of the hiring process just because they’ve been out of work for a long time,” said the President.

He will make the formal announcement on Friday.

The move is in line with Obama’s State of the Union push to take executive action on initiatives that he does not need Congress to accomplish.

The President proposed in 2011 that Congress prohibit discrimination based on unemployment at companies with more than 15 workers. Bills were introduced in the Senate and House, but little progress was made.

“Will we be able to have more of an impact if we can get Congress, for example, to pass a minimum wage law that applies to everybody, as opposed to me just through executive order making sure that, folks who are contractors to the federal government have to pay a minimum wage? Absolutely,” said Obama.

On Tuesday, he promised to take action raising the minimum wage for government contract workers to $10.10 per hour.

The nation’s unemployment rate fell to 6.7% in December, but the drop came mainly from workers leaving the labor force.

Roughly 4 million people are considered long-term unemployed, those out of work for 27 weeks or more. Efforts backed by Obama to extend a federal program providing jobless benefits to that group fell flat this month in Congress.

Obama added that his administration will continue reaching out to the House and Senate on key initiatives.

“But I’m not going to wait for them,” the President said.

Critics have said Obama’s push for executive action illustrates diminished expectations. But he stressed key accomplishments achieved through Congress during his five years in office, including health care and education.

“In no way are my expectations diminished, or my ambitions diminished. But what is obviously true, is we’ve got divided government right now. The House Republicans, in particular, have had difficulty rallying around any agenda, much less mine. And in that kind of environment, what I don’t want is the American people to think that the only way for us to make big change is through legislation,” Obama said.

In a separate interview, Rep. Paul Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate and a potential White House hopeful next time around, told Tapper that Obama appears to be circumventing the Constitution with an “end run” around Congress.

“If there’s something he thinks needs to be changed in law, then he needs to make the case to Congress,” Ryan said, noting that there is an “effective way” to use the bully pulpit “to encourage good things.”

The-CNN-Wire
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