BENTONVILLE, Arkansas — Walmart announced Monday it will give hiring preference to military spouses. Walmart said this makes it the largest U.S. company to do so.

The company's "Military Spouse Career Connection" goes hand in hand with its 2013 goal to hire 250,000 military veterans by 2020. Walmart said it is on pace to reach that goal next year.

According to the company, there are more than 500,000 active duty military spouses in the U.S. Walmart said those spouses face a 26 percent unemployment rate and a 25 percent wage gap, while their civilian counterparts see a 4 percent jobless rate.

Additionally, 77 percent of military spouses want or need work, but the lifestyle of moving frequently makes it difficult to maintain a career, according to the Department of Defense Military Spouse Employment Partnership.

"Military spouses are unsung heroes," Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon said. "We want to honor them and help them find a job or build an amazing career. To military spouses: You've got a home at Walmart!"

All candidates must meet the standard hiring criteria, and available positions can be found at walmartspouseswithamission.com.