The number of companies worldwide expecting business results for 2008 to be significantly worse than targeted levels has more than doubled since March, Hay Group, a Philadelphia consulting firm, said today.

Its latest Global Employee Pay and Staffing Survey found that 31 percent of participants expect to end the year with significantly below-target financial results, up from 12 percent in March. The rest among the 2,589 organizations surveyed said business is close to expectations.

Among retailers, nearly two-thirds expect poor performance for this year because of slow consumer spending, Hay said.

It also found that about half of the companies now plan to freeze or cut staffing compared with 20 percent in the March survey.