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The Billings Gazette announced Monday that it has laid off four full-time and four part-time employees as part of a work force reduction.

The slowdown in the local and national economies prompted the decision to reduce expenses, said Mike Gulledge, publisher of The Gazette and a vice president of publishing for Lee Enterprises, the Gazette's parent company. The Gazette has also suspended merit raises for the rest of the year and cut expenses in other areas.

"Readership of our print and online products continues to remain stable," Gulledge said. "Unfortunately, the economic challenges brought on by the national recession require us to reduce our expenses."

The full-time positions included two from the newsroom, one in circulation and one in advertising. Three part-time positions in production and one in advertising were also trimmed. The Gazette now employs 193 full-time and 46 part-time staffers.

The Gazette is the region's largest newspaper, with an average Sunday circulation of 50,633 and daily circulation of 44,705, according to the latest figures submitted to the Audit Bureau of Circulation for the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2008. The Gazette is one of 54 newspapers owned by Lee Enterprises, which also publishes newspapers in Butte, Helena, Hamilton, Missoula and Casper, Wyo.

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