Less than half of employers increased their employee benefits budgets this year from 2008, compared with increases reported by two-thirds of those surveyed the previous 2 years by Prudential Financial Inc., Newark, N.J.

About one-third of companies are holding to their 2008 budget levels, while another 15% say their budgets have decreased by an average of 16% over last year, according to the study, A New Day in Employee Benefits.