John Hancock cuts 116 jobs in Boston

John Hancock Financial Services said today it is cutting 116 jobs in Boston, or about 3 percent of its local workforce.

The insurance company, a unit of Toronto-based Manulife Financial, said the cutbacks are part of efforts to streamline operations and restructure its annuity business. Insurance companies have been under pressure because of the weak economy, reducing demand for life insurance and other optional products even as wild swings in the stock markets and unusually low interest rates make it harder for financial institutions to earn returns on investments.

Still, the company said it has shifted some workers to its growing mutual fund and 401(k) retirement businesses and continues to hire in those areas. It now has 110 open positions.

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“We are confident of growth opportunities for the company in the near term, especially in our 401(k) savings and mutual funds businesses,’’ said John Hancock spokesman Roy Anderson.

John Hancock currently has 3,750 workers in Boston, up from 3,660 in late 2010.

On Tuesday, John Hancock president Jim Boyle made a point of saying that the company has maintained its employment and other ties to Boston since it was sold to Manulife in 2004. “Our presence in Boston is as strong as it has ever been,’’ Boyle said at a breakfast meeting of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.

Boyle also said the company has performed well compared to its competitors. But he said the firm’s hiring depends largely on the economy and other forces outside its control.

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