Many economists use California's exports as a gauge of the state's rebound potential. According to September's numbers, California still has a long way to go.
The state's merchandise exports, at $10.35 billion in September, were up 3.2% from August but still down 16.3% from the same month last year, according to an analysis of Commerce Department data released Friday.
"September's figures represent modest progress in growing California's export trade," said Jock O'Connell, international trade and economics advisor at the University of California Center Sacramento, which did the analysis.
Agricultural exports fared better than those of manufactured goods, with shipments of farm products declining 8.2% from a year earlier. Almond exports in particular have been quite healthy, O'Connell said.
Exports of manufactured goods, on the other hand, tumbled 19.3% from September 2008, indicating that California's days as a manufacturing center are continuing to slip away, O'Connell said.
"It's a long-term process as California becomes less and less dependent on manufacturing facilities," he said.
There were two bright notes in the data: Airborne exports through Los Angeles International Airport were up 1.3% in September from a year earlier. And the number of loaded containers sailing from the Port of Oakland was up 12.5%.
Overall, the data "suggest that Northern California may be turning the corner faster than Southern California," O'Connell said.
California's exports in the first nine months of this year totaled $86.5 billion, down 22.3% from the same month in 2008.