Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has promoted 261 employees to managing director positions, according to an internal memo sent this week, as the bank seeks to retain top talent amid a wave of layoffs across Wall Street.

This year's list represents a 19 percent drop from the 321 employees named managing directors in 2010 and the lowest number since 259 were promoted in 2008.

The decline in promotions correlates with layoffs occurring at Goldman and most of its Wall Street competitors during a tough period for trading and investment banking revenue.

Goldman's overall workforce declined by 1,300 employees from June 30 to Sept. 30 as the bank tries to wring out at least $1 billion in cost savings to protect its bottom line.

During the quarter, Goldman lost $428 million, only the second quarterly loss in its 12 years as a public company, while revenue declined 60 percent from the year-ago period.

Still, the bank is also working to retain talented young professionals, particularly in growth markets such as Asia and Latin America.

In a presentation on Tuesday, CEO Lloyd Blankfein said nearly 300,000 people applied to work at Goldman Sachs in 2010 and 2011 and that the bank hired less than 4 percent of them.

"Our commitment to attract talented professionals doesn't end with recruiting," said Blankfein. "We commit significant resources to their continued development."

Managing director is a coveted position among more junior Goldman employees and often takes years to achieve. The position is one level below partner managing directors, the most senior position at the firm and a relic from its days as a private Wall Street partnership.

Blankfein said the average tenure of a managing director is about 12 years, while partners average 15.5 years at the bank.

Goldman declined to comment on the promotion memo, which was sent on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York; editing by Andre Grenon)