U.S. business inventories rose more than expected in November, according to a government report on Thursday, supporting views of a pick-up in the economic growth pace during the fourth quarter.

The Commerce Department said inventories increased 0.4 percent after gaining 0.4 percent in October, previously reported as a 0.2 percent rise.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected a 0.2 percent rise in November. The rebuilding of inventories following a period of aggressive liquidation is among the factors expected to drive the economy's growth as it recovers from the most severe downturn since the 1930s.

Inventories are a critical component of gross domestic product changes over the business cycle. The economy grew at a 2.2 percent annual rate in the third quarter and analysts expect the growth pace to have exceeded 4 percent in the October-December period.

Manufacturers' inventories climbed 0.2 percent in November after rising 0.6 percent in October. Retail motor vehicle and parts inventories climbed 0.1 percent in November after rising 0.6 percent the prior month. Inventories at furniture, electronic and appliance stores fell 1.4 percent after increasing 0.9 percent in October.

Business sales surged 2 percent in November, the biggest rise in two years, after increasing 1.4 percent in October. The rise in sales left the inventory-to-sales-ratio, which measures how long it would take to clear shelves at the current sales pace, at 1.28 months' worth from 1.130 months October.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Neil Stempleman)