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Fleet-Norstar Financial Group plans to cut about 500 jobs by the end of the year, an official of the banking company said today.

The cutback could mean the elimination of a "few dozen" positions in Norstar's Buffalo region operation, which employs 2,370, said Robert Lougee Jr., spokesman for the Providence, R.I.-based bank.

"I can confirm the 500 job reductions corporate-wide, which includes 1,000 offices in 40 states," Lougee said. "The bulk of the layoffs will come from our eight banks, including Norstar. If you said a few dozen would come from the Buffalo bank, you probably wouldn't be wide of the mark."

The cutbacks "range from the top to the bottom of the organization," he said. Some workers already have been notified and the others will receive pink slips in the next few weeks, Lougee said.

Fleet posted a small profit in the third quarter and was in the black for the first nine months of the year.

The company is being hit by the recession plaguing the Northeast and blamed the slump for most of the layoffs.

"Obviously, since much of the Northeast, if not nationally, is in a recession at this point, some of them (the layoffs) can be attributed to that," Lougee said.

Other reductions were part of an ongoing consolidation since Fleet Financial Group merged with Norstar Bankcorp of Albany in 1988.

Shortly after the merger, Fleet-Norstar employed 19,500 people. Today, it employs about 18,300, Lougee said.

"Some of (the layoffs) would have been done in the best of economic times," he said. "We have consolidated irrespective of the economy over the last few years."

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