Canadian manufacturers began 2019 with their strongest sales gain in seven months, bringing an end to a string of bad prints.

Factory shipments jumped 1 per cent in January to $57.1 billion, Statistics Canada reported Friday in Ottawa, the biggest gain since June. Economists had projected sales would increase 0.4 per cent. In volume terms, manufacturers did even better in January, recording a 1.4 per cent gain.

The manufacturing numbers are some of the first bits of economic activity data to be released for 2019, and may be seen as a good sign the broad economic slowdown recorded in the final months of 2018 isn’t deepening -- at least outside of the household sector.

Factory sales dropped 2.9 per cent in the final three months of 2018, part of an overall poor performance that saw Canada’s economy stall in the final quarter of last year. Economists are expecting the economy to remain weak to start 2019.

The data available so far this year have shown sharp gains in employment but a weak picture in housing -- both in terms of new construction and resales.

Statistics Canada will release January sales data from wholesalers and retailers next week.