Even as market warms, some firms prepare pink slips

By D.C. Denison
Globe Staff / March 5, 2011

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Jobs are still being lost at some companies in Massachusetts, despite the easing of the unemployment rate in both the state and the nation.

Four companies filed documents with the state showing they plan to cut a combined total of nearly 600 local jobs in the next few months.

“An economic recovery is usually not evenly distributed, and that’s what we’re seeing in Massachusetts,’’ said Michael Goodman, associate professor of public policy at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

“Massachusetts is still climbing out of a hole, and some sectors are doing better than others.’’

Among the companies that informed the state they planned cuts of at least 100 jobs each were: Computer Sciences Corp., an information technology company that said it will lay off 146 employees in Cambridge on April 29; U.S. Foodservice Inc., based in Rosemont, Ill., which gave notice it intends to cut 153 jobs in Everett and Peabody by May 1; global consumer products firm Unilever, which plans to cut 178 employees in Norwood on May 27, according its filing; and publisher Courier Corp, based in North Chelmsford, which filed a notice that it would be laying off 110 employees when it closes its Stoughton facility by the end of April.

The layoff documents were filed to comply with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires that companies notify the state 60 days in advance of a large plant closing or major layoff.

The filings come against a backdrop of generally good economic news.

A report yesterday from the Labor Department said that the national unemployment rate fell in February to 8.9 percent, a nearly two-year low, and the country added 192,000 jobs.

Earlier in the week, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported revised data from January that showed the state’s jobless rate held steady at 8.3 percent that month, with employers adding 5,600 jobs.

U.S. Foodservice — which operates distribution centers in Everett and Peabody, fewer than 15 miles apart — said in a statement that its Everett plant “is not economically viable.’’ It will continue to operate in Peabody, the statement said.

Rajeev Balakrishna, Courier Corp. vice president and general counsel, said that company is closing its Stoughton printing plant, which specializes in one-color printing, because it can no longer compete with four-color and digital printing.

Unilever, with US headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., and Computer Sciences Corp., based in Falls Church, Va., did not respond to requests for more information about their upcoming layoffs.

“I’m sure that there’s a story behind each of those layoff events,’’ said UMass Dartmouth’s Goodman, adding that large job cuts help make the recovery feel slow and uneven.

“Four or five large layoff events do not tell us that much about the general economy,’’ he said, “but they can add to the feeling that some sectors, like technology, are pulling us forward at the same time that construction and manufacturing, which have the blue-collar jobs, are still facing headwinds.’’

D.C. Denison can be reached at