Bank of America plans to cut 16,000 jobs as part of a major restructuring plan by the end of 2012, when it would no longer be the largest US banking employer, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The cuts will take the banking giant's total employment to 260,000, the Journal said, the lowest level since 2008, when the bank acquired failing mortgage lender Countrywide Financial and the Merrill Lynch investment bank.

The cuts, outlined in a document given to top executives, are part of a larger strategy by chief executive Brian Moynihan -- who took over in 2010 -- to make the bank more efficient and reduce its exposure to risk, the Journal said.

Most of the cuts are expected to come from the consumer banking division, as the bank plans to close 200 branches, on top of 178 shut down in 2011, the newspaper said, citing an individual familiar with the document.

The restructuring plan has already seen Bank of America shed several international credit card units, insurance units and other holdings, dropping its total assets by seven percent to some $2.16 trillion, the Journal said.