Business inventories dropped 1.0% and sales levels fell 0.1% in May, according to Commerce Department data released yesterday.

Business inventories slid to $1.368 billion following a revised 1.3% decline to $1.382 billion in April, originally reported as a 1.1% decrease to $1.385 billion. Thomson Reuters had projected that business inventories would be off 0.8% in the month. Overall inventories were 8.0% below the May 2008 level, according to Commerce.

Stocks of autos — by far the largest component of inventories — fell 4.2% in May, following April’s 3.2% decrease. The category is down 21.0% from the previous May.

Meanwhile, the 0.1% decrease in overall business sales brought the category to $966.1 million. The May figure followed an unrevised 0.3% drop to $967.3 million in March.

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