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Bank of America to cut 3,500 jobs
Question of the Day
NEW YORK — Bank of America Corp., the nation's largest bank, said Friday that it plans to cut 3,500 jobs by the end of September.
The cuts amount to a little more than 1 percent of the bank’s workforce of roughly 288,000. But they follow a string of other layoffs, including 2,500 already announced this year.
A bank spokesman declined to say if the cuts would be concentrated in a particular part of the country, but said they would be spread across most of the business units.
“The company regularly assesses the efficiency of its businesses and at times is going to make adjustments to meet the opportunities that are in the marketplace,” said spokesman Scott Silvestri. The bank has previously cut jobs in the mortgage lending and investment banking, for example, after demand for those services slowed.
After this round of layoffs, the bank should have about 284,000 employees. Its roster peaked in early 2009, right after it absorbed investment bank Merrill Lynch and mortgage lender Countrywide Financial, at about 302,000.
The entire banking industry is shrinking, as new regulations and the fallout of the financial crisis force it to become smaller, simpler and less profitable. Many of the complicated investment vehicles that fueled the industry before 2008 are gone, after being blamed for causing the financial crisis.
U.S. banks employ about 2.09 million people, down from 2.21 million people in early 2008, according to data compiled by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
The finance and insurance industry made up about 8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product last year, according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. That’s in line with where it was in 2007, before the financial crisis took hold.
Like other industries, banking has always ebbed and flowed with the markets. It started laying off investment bankers as the economy began to sputter in 2007. It laid off workers again in 2008 and 2009, as the financial crisis sent many banks into the red and forced them to take government bailouts. But 2010 provided some relief, with shares bouncing back and banks making profits, and banks even hired back some workers.
This latest round is different because it’s coming at a time when many banks are actually posting improved profits. Analysts say the latest cuts point to permanent structural changes, not temporary market problems.
The KBW Bank Index has fallen 22 percent this month as of Friday morning, compared to a 12 percent fall in the S&P 500. Bank of America shares have fallen 28 percent.
Investors are worried about banks’ exposure to continued problems over soured mortgages and mortgage-backed securities. Though the banks’ capital cushions are higher and many are turning profits, it’s not known how much they could have to pay to investors who claim they were misled into buying the securities.
Bank of America is especially vulnerable, partly because of its fast expansion during the height of the financial crisis: It’s still cleaning up the exotic mortgages of Countrywide, a California-based lender it bought in the summer of 2008. The move propelled the Charlotte bank into the country’s biggest mortgage lender, but it has also brought it lawsuits, regulatory probes and quarterly losses.
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