3M Co said on Thursday that it had offered early retirement packages to about 3,600 U.S. employees, or 11 percent of its workforce, as the diversified manufacturer continues to respond to reduced demand for its products brought on by the economic downturn.

Company spokeswoman Jacqueline Berry said employees eligible for the offer were informed Thursday morning and told they have until the end of May to decide.

Two groups of older, nonunion employees at the St. Paul, Minnesota-based company have been invited to retire early, Berry said: Workers who are at least 59 years old with five or more years of service and workers who are at least 55 years old with 30 years or more of service.

The move is the latest effort by 3M to reduce headcount and trim costs. Since December, it has eliminated 3,600 jobs in two rounds of cuts. The company also halted share repurchases, reduced capital spending and deferred merit-pay increases.

3M is a bellwether of the U.S. economy because of its geographic reach and broad lineup of products, which include everything from Scotch tape to optical films for liquid crystal displays.

(Reporting by James Kelleher; Editing by Andre Grenon)