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A Canadian National locomotive

A Canadian National locomotive in Chicago. (Image courtesy of Canadian National)

Canadian National, one of six major freight railroads serving the St. Louis region, said on Friday it would cut management and union jobs, as the largest Canadian railroad operator grapples with an economic slowdown.

The company will lay off 1,600 employees in the United States and Canada, according to a report by the Globe and Mail

The announcement comes amid declining freight volumes as trade tensions have weighed on the North American economy.

The number of people to be laid off could rise if demand from rail customers continues to decline, the Canadian newspaper said, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Canadian National Railway spokesman said the action, which includes sending some of its employees on temporary leave, has already begun across its network.

Because of its acquisition of the Illinois Central in 1998, the Canadian National connects Canada to the Gulf Coast.