The number of companies implementing cost-cutting measures, including layoffs, hiring and salary freezes and smaller pay raises, has risen sharply in just two months, according to a new survey by Watson Wyatt, a leading global consulting firm.

Watson Wyatt’s latest survey found that more than one in five companies (23 percent) plan to make layoffs in the next 12 months, and almost two in five (39 percent) have already done so — a sharp increase from only 19 percent of companies who had done so in October, according to a company press release.

The number of companies with hiring freezes jumped from 30 percent in October to 47 percent this month, with an additional 18 percent planning a hiring freeze in the next 12 months. The number of companies that have already implemented salary freezes jumped from 4 percent in October to 13 percent currently.

The survey was conducted during the week of December 8, 2008, and includes responses from 117 companies across a variety of industries.

“As the economic downturn has both broadened and deepened, companies in almost every industry can no longer stay the course,” said Laura Sejen, global director of strategic rewards consulting at Watson Wyatt. “The need to contain costs has resulted in stronger measures that are ultimately affecting more workers.”