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Cuts darken hiring outlook<br> Northrop Grumman, Quad/Graphics shed 215 jobs after Labor Department reports gains

Two significant local employers, Northrop Grumman Amherst Systems and Quad/Graphics, are cutting a combined 215 jobs, a blow to a region that was starting to see hopeful signs in its employment picture.

Northrop Grumman Amherst Systems said it will eliminate 120 jobs, while Quad/Graphics is cutting 95 jobs.

The grim news comes amid state Labor Department data this week showing Buffalo Niagara had increased its job count in November, driven by the private sector.

Amherst Systems is cutting its work force due to a lack of new orders for its electronic warfare simulation products, said Jack Martin Jr., a company spokesman. The local operation, on Wehrle Drive in Amherst near Erie Community College's North Campus, will eliminate 23 percent of its work force, shrinking it to 395 employees.

The job cuts will take effect Feb. 28, Martin said. Workers were told of the reductions this week, but individual notifications will be made in mid-February.

"This work force reduction is regrettable but unavoidable," he said.

The job cuts will affect engineering, manufacturing and programming support positions at the company, along with some administrative functions.

Amherst Systems is a unit of Los Angeles-based defense contractor Northrop Grumman. Last summer, Amherst Systems eliminated 54 local jobs, and cut an additional 20 jobs at a facility on Long Island that has since closed, Martin said.

Amherst Systems has been part of Northrop Grumman since 2000. That was the year Northrop Grumman bought Comptek Research, which had acquired Amherst Systems in 1999.

Wisconsin-based Quad/Graphics said a portion of its Depew plant's work will be moved to other company facilities where it can be produced more efficiently with a different mix of equipment. It will cut jobs Jan. 3, said Claire Ho, a spokeswoman.

Quad/Graphics is moving out work produced on gravure presses, including brochures, magazines, catalogs and retail inserts for newspapers, Ho said. The George Urban Boulevard plant will continue to produce mass-market paperback books, she said.

The reductions will affect both hourly and salaried workers. A percentage breakdown of the two categories was not available.

The 18 percent work force reduction will leave the plant with 425 jobs. Some of the affected employees might retire, Ho said.

The Depew plant was part of World Color Press when Quad/Graphics acquired World Color in a major deal earlier this year. The merger led to speculation about the future of the Depew plant in the combined company.

Since the merger, Quad/Graphics has announced the shutdown of five plants in the United States and one in Canada. It also accelerated the previously announced closing of another U.S. plant. But the Depew facility has avoided the shutdown list.

Both Quad/Graphics and Amherst Systems pledge to provide affected employees with severance packages and help with trying to find other jobs. In both cases, employees will have an opportunity to apply for openings at other locations of the respective companies.

The coming layoffs are unwelcome news on the heels of a Labor Department report containing some encouraging signs.

The Labor Department announced that Buffalo Niagara in November had added 1,600 jobs over the previous year. Gains in private sector jobs were partially offset by losses in public sector jobs.

Buffalo Niagara's unemployment rate in November increased to 8 percent from 7.9 percent the previous year. But that increase was attributed to more unemployed people actively seeking jobs, and thus being counted in the jobless statistics, rather than not seeking jobs at all.


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