Supervalu Inc.'s New England grocery chain, Shaw's, is laying off an estimated 700 employees, or 4 percent of its workforce, the latest round of job cuts for the embattled Eden Prairie-based parent company.

Shaw's on Friday announced the cuts, which are spread across its 169 stores in five New England states. The layoffs will affect a mix of full-time and part-time employees, though Shaw's declined to be more specific.

Shaw's employs 17,000 and is one of the biggest grocery chains in the Boston market. It's also one of the largest of Supervalu's 11 chains, though one that has particularly struggled in recent years.

"Any time this type of news comes, it's no good. But on the whole we're not surprised given the condition of [Supervalu], the competition in this area and the economic times we are living in," said Peter Derouen, a spokesman for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 791.

About 260 of the local's workers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island will lose their jobs. They're all part-timers with less than one year of experience, Derouen said.

Shaw's President Mike Stigers said in a news release that the layoff is "unfortunately the necessary step for us to take to help improve our business, reduce expenses and reinvest in more customer-facing initiatives."

Supervalu, suffering from years of falling sales and a sharp decline in its stock, put itself up for sale last summer, as a whole or in pieces. While analysts have forecast a piecemeal sale, reports have surfaced that Cerberus Capital Management is putting together a bid for the entire company.

Supervalu, which also owns the Twin Cities' largest grocer, Cub Foods, has had layoffs at its corporate and store levels since early 2011. In June, it announced it was cutting up to 2,500, or 13 percent of the workforce, at its Albertsons outlets in Southern California and Nevada. Albertsons is its largest chain.

Supervalu also cut at least 200 jobs at its corporate offices in Eden Prairie this year, and last year laid off 200 part-time employees at Cub and 900 at its Acme chain in the Philadelphia area.

The company announced in September that it is closing 60 stores nationwide, cuts that did not affect Cub.

Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003