David Goldman, File, Associated Press
FILE - In this Saturday, June 6, 2015, file photo, Maria Cantellano, left, talks with a customer while looking over crates of watermelons at her stand at the Atlanta Farmers Market in Atlanta. The Commerce Department releases wholesale trade inventories for May on Tuesday, July 12, 2016.

WASHINGTON — U.S. wholesale businesses increased their stockpiles by a modest amount in May while growth in their sales slowed slightly.

The Commerce Department says inventories at the wholesale level edged up a slight 0.1 percent in May following a much bigger 0.7 percent gain in April. Sales increased for a third straight month, rising 0.5 percent after a 0.8 percent increase in April and a 0.6 percent rise in March. Sales had fallen in January and February.

Since late last year, businesses have been slowing the rebuilding of their stockpiles in the face of weaker domestic sales and a fall in export sales. The slowdown in inventory restocking dampened overall economic growth late last year and early this year. But economists believe inventories added to growth in the second quarter.