Venture capital performance didn’t do too badly during the third quarter of 2008, according to the Private Equity Performance Index calculated by Thomson Reuters and the National Venture Capital Association.

Short- and long-term returns fell, of course – with 2008 seeing the worst venture liquidity in five years, would you expect anything else? And, one-year returns actually flipped from money-making to money-losing.

Still, even short-term venture payoff didn’t fall by as much as the NASDAQ or the S&P 500.

You may be reading this post with something like to my initial response to the data: Uh, why are we talking about this now?

These numbers have always lagged a quarter behind other Thompson Reuters/NVCA reports, but when you’ve got something as industry-shaking as last fall’s economic collapse, data this old seems particularly stale. Still, it’s worth looking at the numbers, if only because the Q3 drop makes you wonder how bad things will get in Q4.

For example, the fact that one-year returns already declined 27.2 percent year-over-year (from 26.6 to -1.6 percent) is probably not a good sign.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that “home run” exits (i.e., big IPOs and acquisitions) can skew the data, so people who invested in your average fund may not be doing as well as indicated here.