Job cuts, over 3 years, will hit all units as bank reviews operations in light of the weakening economy and merger with Merrill Lynch

By Tami Luhby, senior writer

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NEW YORK ( — Bank of America said Thursday it plans to slash up to 35,000 jobs over the next three years as it absorbs Merrill Lynch and contends with the deepening recession.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank, which will be the nation’s largest financial services firm when the Merrill Lynch (MER, Fortune 500) deal closes in coming weeks, said it will announce a final job reduction plan in early 2009. The cuts will come from both companies and will affect all lines of business.

“The reductions are designed to eliminate redundancies created as a result of the merger with Merrill Lynch and to reflect the current recessionary environment,” Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) said in a statement.

Bank of America joins a growing list of financial services companies slashing staff amid the continuing credit crunch and downturn in consumer spending. Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) said last month it would cut more than 50,000 jobs, while Morgan Stanley (MS, Fortune 500) said it would slash 10% of its institutional securities division and 9% of its money management business. In October, American Express (AXP, Fortune 500) announced it would shed 7,000 jobs and Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500) said it would cut 3,260 positions.