FirstMerit Corp.'s profit rose 6.7 percent for the first quarter, the Akron-based bank reported Tuesday. 



Net income was $57.1 million, or 33 cents per share, compared to $53.5 million, or 31 cents per share, for the first quarter a year ago.



The results are the company's 64th straight quarter of profitability, the bank said.



 “In the quarter our profitable balance sheet expansion was led by increases in our originated commercial loans portfolio and core deposit growth. The new relationships we are bringing into the company are aligned with our disciplined credit philosophy which is sustaining our solid asset quality performance," Paul Greig, FirstMerit chairman, president and chief executive officer said in a press release. " As business conditions and the unemployment rates throughout our Midwest footprint improve, we continue to penetrate our existing and newer markets to win market share. We also are sticking to our strategy of building and maintaining capital levels that will keep us sound throughout the economic cycle.”



The bank said its average originated commercial loans increased $245 million, or 3.17 percent, compared with the prior quarter, and increased $1.2 billion, or 17.02 percent, compared with the year-ago quarter.



Average originated loans were $12.7 billion during the first quarter, an increase of $383.6 million, or 3.12 percent, compared with the fourth quarter 2014, and an increase of $2.2 billion, or 21.45 percent, compared with the first quarter 2014.



According to the latest filings, the bank employs  4,103 full-time equivalent employees, down 170 from the previous quarter and 418 from its 4,521 reported the same time a year ago.



FirstMerit spokesman Rob Townsend said companywide, the employment numbers are down, but "here in Summit County, as an employer, our numbers are fairly flat -- even year to year." Townsend declined to say how many employees FirstMerit employs in Summit County, citing company policy not to provide breakdowns beyond total company-wide numbers.



Companyside, the 418 fewer jos in the last year is attributed to a few things, Townsend said, "atttritiion, efficiences gained through the Citizens acquisition, investments in technology as well as consolidation of operations elsewhere in the footprint."



Townsend said none of the job losses are through branch closures that the company has had in the last year. When branches close, the company offers jobs elsewhere to employees, he said.



Last summer, FirstMerit closed 26 branches, including in the Merriman Valley of Akron. The bank is also set to close another 16 branches on Thursday (April 30), including four in the Akron area.



Job losses did occur earlier this year when FirstMerit closed its mortgage title division in Canton, resulting in fewer than 60 job losses and a "small number" of back-office employees' jobs in Akron were eliminated.



FirstMerit has 383 branches in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and western Pennsylvania.