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    GLOBE 100
    Small impact from big employers

    Jobs picture mixed for state's anchors as boom goes on

    By Kimberly Blanton, Globe Staff, 05/18/99

    mong the elite of Massachusetts' biggest employers, the job losses were as prevalent as the gains last year.

    The state's economic boom is well into its seventh year of virtually uninterrupted growth. But small companies, particularly in high-tech fields, have been largely responsible for a Massachusetts unemployment rate that dropped to a low 2.8 percent in March.

    Growth by leaps and bounds was not apparent among the 50 biggest Massachusetts employers in The Boston Globe's annual ranking. A handful of giant mutual funds and computer companies had strong employment gains last year. But the picture for most big employers, the anchors of the state's economy, was mixed.

    Bell Atlantic Corp.'s payroll was unchanged in Massachusetts last year, at 18,000, though the telephone company held its place as Massachusetts' biggest employer.

    The Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. - No. 2 - also stayed even, with a total of 16,340 Massachusetts employees. Many of the grocery store chain's workers are part-timers assigned a variety of shifts. The region's other two large supermarket chains, The Star Market Co. and Shaw's Supermarkets, came in at numbers 7 and 8, respectively.

    Meanwhile, defense contractor Raytheon Co., predictably, continued to shrink operations in 1998 - it has 1,400 fewer employees in the state this year than last and 2,000 fewer globally.

    Among the five largest employers, only two saw any growth last year: Fidelity Investments and State Street Corp. Both benefited from a stock market that has recently soared well past the 10,000 milestone.

    Fidelity, the country's biggest manager of mutual funds, withstood a currency panic last summer that cascaded through emerging countries and threatened to destabilize US financial markets. The Boston-based mutual fund firm added 1,020 to its Massachusetts payroll in 1998, while global operations added 3,961 employees.

    Fidelity competitor Putnam Investments also grew, by 516 Massachusetts employees, to a total of 5,716.

    State Street's role in the investment world, as record keeper for trillions of dollars in mutual fund and pension assets, is less obvious than Fidelity's. But its payroll also grew: State Street said it added 1,277 employees in Massachusetts and more than 2,400 worldwide.

    As a result, State Street now ranks fifth - up from ninth place the year before - and right behind Fidelity.

    Other types of financial firms continued to scale back operations in a world more attuned to stock prices than to interest in passbook savings accounts.

    BankBoston Corp. and Fleet Financial Group Inc., which have agreed to merge into a $178 billion banking company, reported they have trimmed their combined Massachusetts payrolls by about 5,000, to 15,047. That would make them the third-largest employer in the state if the merged company were in this year's ranking. (Combined worldwide employment at the two banks is nearly 60,000.) As separate entities on this year's employment chart, BankBoston ranked ninth and Fleet 14th. The merger is awaiting approval by federal regulators.

    Employment declined in another traditional area of finance: insurance. Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. trimmed 300 jobs in the state, and Liberty Mutual Group trimmed 100.

    The high-tech industry may be booming, but Digital Equipment Corp., once the state's biggest employer with some 30,000 employees, took the last steps in its long, slow walk into extinction last year.

    Digital in 1998 disappeared from the list of Massachusetts' biggest employers due to its acquisition last year by Compaq Computer Corp. And Digital's old operations, now under the Compaq logo, continued to shrink: Compaq reported 7,000 employees in the state, compared with Digital's 11,500 employees the previous year.

    Hopkinton-based EMC Corp. is a rising star in the computer world. The maker of data-storage systems said it added 900 to its Massachusetts work force last year, for a total of 3,800, much of that gain occurring in its manufacturing plant where the storage hardware is made. As global demand for computer storage continued to expand, EMC's worldwide work force grew last year by 3,200 to 9,400.

    Massachusetts' largest employer in the booming telecommunications industry is a company based in Murray Hill, N.J. Lucent Technologies Inc., a maker of telecommunications equipment and software, added 559 employees last year, bringing its Massachusetts work force to 6,759.

    Bay Networks, a California-based computer networking company that grew out of the merger of California-based Synoptics Inc. and Wellfleet Communications Inc. of Billerica, saw essentially no change in its Massachusetts employment, which was 2,000 this year and last. But Bay Networks employees are now working for another company: Northern Telecom Ltd. agreed in June to acquire Bay Networks in the largest merger ever in the telecom and networking industries.

    AT&T Corp., which is making the transition from long-distance telephone carrier to telecommunications company, added 54 employees last year, giving it 1,754 Massachusetts workers and ranking it number 50.

    While high tech sizzled, a giant in the consumer goods industry continued to register steady gains. Gillette Co., the 18th-biggest employer in the state and the world's biggest manufacturer of razor blades, added 823 employees. Gillette now employs 5,573 in Massachusetts.

    This story ran on page D28 of the Boston Globe on 05/18/99.
    © Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.

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