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Employers urged to hire war spouses | (UPI) -- With more than 216,000 National Guard and reserve troops called up for active duty in Iraq, employers are being urged to give special consideration to hiring job-seeking spouses of soldiers left at home.

Workplace authority John Challenger said Monday that reservists could be gone for up to two years -- financially devastating some families who already are feeling hardship.

"While there are no demographic data available from the military indicating how many of the troops in Iraq left a spouse and/or children at home, one can assume the number is significant," he said. "It is not difficult to imagine the emotional and financial impact of having a spouse fighting in a war thousands of miles from home."

He urged U.S. businesses to give a job applicant whose spouse is serving in Iraq priority in the current tight job market.

Federal law requires employers to continue benefits and re-employ reservists when they return from duty, but the employer is not required to continue paying reservists or make up the difference between in civilian and military pay.

A private with one year in service base pay makes $1,290 a month or $15,480 a year, according the Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. The entry-level salary of a newly commissioned second lieutenant is $2,184 a month or around $26,200 annually.

"Assume that the reservist in question holds the rank of first lieutenant and has been serving in the reserves for 10 years. This individual, who was earning $75,000 in the private sector, will see his or her annual salary fall to $41,772 or $3,481 per month," said Challenger.

"For the spouse left behind, the financial shortfall may be too much to bear, as bills do not stop coming when the breadwinner is called to military duty."

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