US companies are pulling back hard on IT spending as the economic downturn continues, a new study by ChangeWave Research has found.

ChangeWave surveyed 1,947 people involved with IT spending in their organisations. The survey was conducted August 11-21. Eighty percent of those surveyed were located in the US, along with small percentages in Canada and other countries.

Thirty percent overall reported that third-quarter IT spending was lower than previously planned, an increase of three percentage points since ChangeWave's May spending survey. Meanwhile, only 12 percent spent more than planned.

In addition, 29 percent said spending would drop or even cease in the fourth quarter, a 5 percent increase over the last study. Thirteen percent planned to spend more.

"Thus, the brief period of stabilising we picked up in May has given way to another major leg downward," ChangeWave director of research Paul Carton wrote in a blog post Wednesday. "In fact, you have to go way back to the middle of the last recession (August 2001) to find a ChangeWave survey projecting this big of an IT spending downturn."

Higher energy costs stood as a top factor for the spending slowdown, cited by 35 percent of respondents.

ChangeWave's findings show a turnaround is not imminent; 39 percent of respondents predicted IT spending in their companies would not rise until the second quarter of 2009 or beyond.