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GE to hire 5,000 U.S. veterans, investing in plants

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General Electric Co (GE-N) plans to hire 5,000 U.S. military veterans over the next five years and to invest $580 million US to expand its aviation footprint in the United States this year.

The largest U.S. conglomerate unveiled the moves ahead of a four-day meeting it is convening in Washington starting on Monday to focus on boosting the U.S. economy, which has been slow to recover from a brutal 2007-2009 recession.

"We should have the confidence to act and to restore American competitiveness," Chief Executive Jeff Immelt, a top adviser on jobs and the economy to President Barack Obama, said in a statement.

The U.S. unemployment rate -- seen as the main barrier to a move vibrant recovery -- fell to a near three-year low of 8.3 percent in January, helped in part by the manufacturing sector adding about 50,000 workers. Even with that improvement, 23.8 million Americans remain out of work or underemployed, which is keeping the economy a key issue heading into November's presidential elections.

The world's largest maker of jet engines plans this year to open three new U.S. aviation plants, in Ellisville, Mississippi; Auburn, Alabama, and Dayton, Ohio. After cutting headcount significantly during the recession -- as did its major peers including United Technologies Corp. and Caterpillar Inc. -- GE has added about 9,000 U.S. workers since 2009, and has already announced plans to hire another 4,500 people.

The Fairfield, Connecticut-based company, whose operations range from making loans to mid-sized businesses to manufacturing railroad locomotives, plans to discuss these moves at the Washington meeting. Boeing Co CEO James McNerney and Dow Chemical Co CEO Andrew Liveris are also scheduled to speak.

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