Wholesale inventories jumped in May

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. wholesale inventories rose more than expected in May, the U.S. Commerce Department said on Friday, creating a potential drag on growth in the second half of the year as the job market slows further.

Inventories jumped 1.8 percent in May, well above forecasts for a 0.7 percent gain and following an upwardly revised 1.1 percent rise for April.

Wholesale sales, however, fell 0.2 percent. The figures confounded estimates for a 0.2 percent increase, and were dragged lower by an auto sector still reeling from the impact of Japan's major earthquake in March.

Automotive sales plunged 10.4 percent, the biggest drop since November 2008, when the world economy was experiencing its worst slump in modern history.

Weak employment data published earlier on Friday raised fears about whether consumer demand will be sustained in the second half of the year.

(Reporting by Pedro Nicolaci da Costa; Editing by James Dalgleish)