About 71% of the companies in the voluntary benefits market have reduced their own budgets due to the recession.

About 53% of voluntary benefits brokers surveyed report seeing a reduction in their budgets, and about 73% of large carriers are reporting cutbacks, according to Eastbridge Consulting Group Inc., Avon, Conn.

More than 75% of the survey participants said their companies have reduced travel expenses, with budgets for industry meetings and visits with field staff being especially hard hit. Half of the participants’ companies cut travel budgets more than 20%.

About 40% of respondents said their companies have suspended or postponed hiring for new sales and non-sales positions due to the business slowdown, Eastbridge says.

Similarly, 40% of the participants said their companies have delayed or postponed new product introductions. “However, the good news is that the development of new products has not been cancelled,” says Bonnie Brazzell, vice president of Eastbridge.