The Economic Gist Via Craigslist

My weekend walks with the dog have turned from quiet reveries into trips through a neighborhood bazaar. Driveway after driveway is packed with garage sales and people selling old DVD players, lamps, old books, anything, everything. Part of this is a natural summer decluttering ritual, but with gas and food prices through the roof, it’s seems like it’s becoming a quick way to make a little extra scratch.

My curiosity was piqued by this anecdotal evidence, so I decided to check with the online gurus of getting rid of your crap, Craigslist, to see if they had any data that showed a similar spike in activity. The numbers speak for themselves. There were a total of 129,653 garage sales posted to Craigslist nationwide in May of 2007. In May 2008 there were 252,561. And while that number dipped during the winter months (too cold to sit outside), it really took off after March.

But people aren’t just hawking their junk on their front lawns; there’s also been a big increase in the number of general “For Sale” postings. There was a total of 888,7291 “For Sale” posts on Craigslist nationwide in June of 2007, that number rose to 17,795,940 in June of 2008. (A Craigslist rep said June is a little lower than other months because it only has 30 days.) That number has been on a pretty steady incline, but it too saw a big jump from February to March.

What are people selling? The top five items for sale on Craigslist are:

  1. cars/trucks
  2. furniture
  3. electronics
  4. baby/kid stuff
  5. motorcycles

I also contacted eBay to see if it had similar data, but didn’t hear back.

This data won’t change the world, but it gives us an interesting peek into it — and into our neighbor’s yard.