Minnesota's exports continued to fall sharply in the third quarter, though not by quite as much as in previous months, as the pandemic continued to depress worldwide demand for the state's products.

The state's sales of agricultural, mining and manufacturing exports dropped by 14% from July to September, a decline of $803 million to $4.8 billion compared with the same period a year ago, according to a report released this week by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

That was slightly worse than the nation as a whole, with U.S. exports falling 13% in the third quarter. But it was an improvement from the second quarter when the state's exports contracted by 18% in the earlier days of the pandemic.

In the third quarter, Minnesota's top exports continued to face challenges. Sales of optics/medical goods dropped 18%, machinery fell 11%, electrical equipment sank 23%, vehicles were down 18% and plastics fell 13%. But the drops were not quite as severe as in the second quarter.

Some of the biggest declines came from major markets such Mexico, Japan and Germany.

Meanwhile, Minnesota's global sales of meat grew by 22%, mainly fueled by increased demand in China and Japan, but offset by losses in Mexico and Korea. Sales of fresh or frozen pork drove the increase.

Other areas that saw gains included mineral fuels, oils and beverages.

In the first nine months of the year, Minnesota exports fell 9%, compared with a 15% drop for the U.S.

"Exports play a critical role in Minnesota's economy," DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said in a statement. "The Minnesota Trade Office continues to support exporters by pivoting their services to meet the current demands of our virtual environment, including trade missions, webinars and engaging the state's foreign offices and industry leaders to assist small- and medium-sized companies in exploring and expanding their international sales."

Kavita Kumar • 612-673-4113

Twitter: @kavitakumar