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Bank plans 35,000 layoffs

The cuts will help Bank of America absorb Merrill Lynch.

NEW YORK - Bank of America Corp. said yesterday that it expected to eliminate 30,000 to 35,000 jobs over the next three years as it faces a deteriorating economic environment and tries to absorb Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc.

Bank of America, based in Charlotte, N.C., said that it had not yet completed its analysis for eliminating positions and that a final number would not be determined until early next year. It said the cuts would affect workers from both companies and all types of businesses.

In the eight-county Philadelphia area, Bank of America had 117 branches and $10.1 billion in deposits, giving it an 8.6 percent market share, as of June 30. Bank of America also has credit card operations in Wilmington because of its 2006 acquisition of MBNA Corp., making it one of New Castle County's biggest employers.

"They are saying that even though we've got the best efficiency of any large bank holding company, we still have extra costs," Christopher Whalen, managing director of Institutional Risk Analytics, a market-research firm, told Bloomberg News. "They still have to throw more stuff out of the boat because they have to stay afloat."

Yesterday's announcement of job cuts was hardly unexpected, considering the merger and the wave of job losses seen in the banking industry and in other sectors over the last few months. Bank of America and Merrill Lynch have already eliminated thousands of investment-banking jobs over the last year, as have other banks, in an effort to lower costs as they face increasing defaults in mortgages, credit card debt, and other loans.

Bank of America is considered one of the country's healthier banks, and its decision illustrates how widespread the wave of layoffs hitting the United States is. The nation lost more than half a million jobs last month alone.

New York-based Citigroup Inc. has been slashing jobs the most - by next year, Citigroup expects to have shrunk its workforce by 75,000, or 20 percent, since its head count peaked in late 2007.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. is shedding about 7,000 employees, or 10 percent, of its investment-bank staff and cutting 9,200 jobs at Washington Mutual Inc., the bank it acquired in September. The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley, meanwhile, are reducing their staffs about 10 percent.

The shotgun deal between Bank of America and Merrill, valued at $50 billion when it was announced in September, was struck as the solvency of investment banks was in grave doubt and kept Merrill from a complete meltdown such as the one that hit Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc., which was forced to file for bankruptcy. Shareholders of both companies voted to approve the deal last week, and it is expected to close by Jan. 1.

Bank of America shares fell $1.78, or 10.67 percent, to close at $14.91 yesterday, while Merrill shares fell $1.43, or 10.14 percent, to $12.67.

In after-hours trading, Bank of America shares rose 12 cents, to $15.03, and Merrill shares rose a penny to $12.68.