Forty-five percent of respondents to a new survey from ChangeWave Research said their companies will spend less or no money on IT during the first quarter of 2009, the highest percentage found by ChangeWave since 2001.
ChangeWave surveyed 1,926 people in the U.S. involved with IT spending at their organizations. The study was conducted Nov. 6-12.
Only 10 percent of respondents plan to spend more in the first quarter, down three points from a similar study conducted in August.
"It's not just that the numbers are so horrific right now, it's that this is the point seasonally that we expect to see spending improve. Instead, we're seeing a collapse," said Paul Carton, director of research at the Rockville, Maryland, investment research firm.
"We're just looking for a break in the gloom," Carton added. "It doesn't even have to go up. Even if the rate of spending levels off, that would be a bullish indicator."
The study indicated that IT organizations have already been engaged in some heavy belt-tightening. Thirty-nine percent of respondents said they have spent less than originally planned so far during the fourth quarter, nine points higher than the last survey.
And respondents are also feeling increasingly skeptical that a quick economic recovery will occur. Forty-eight percent expect their IT budgets to be lower in the first half of 2009 than during the same period this year -- more than double the percentage of the previous survey.
Larger enterprises are pulling back on spending slightly more than smaller ones, according to the study. Forty-nine percent of companies with 1,000 or more employees said they would spend less or nothing on IT in the first quarter, compared to 43 percent of those with between one and 10 workers.