Sales by Canadian wholesalers in March rose by the most in more than a year, another sign the economy is emerging from a temporary slow patch.

Wholesale sales rose 1.4 per cent during the month, the fastest increase since October 2017 and the fourth straight monthly gain, Statistics Canada reported Thursday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg were expecting a gain of 0.9 per cent.

The solid wholesale print is further evidence -- along with stronger trade, retail and jobs data -- that Canada's economy is returning to strength after struggling in recent months. It all points to the economy returning to faster rates of growth in coming months.

The wholesale numbers are the final major monthly data reading ahead of the release of March output numbers by Statistics Canada on May 31. Economists are anticipating positive growth, after the economy contracted in February.

Statistics Canada will also release first quarter GDP numbers on the same day, with growth expected by economists to pick up slightly from a near-halt in the final three months of 2018.

Gains in wholesale sales in March were broad-based, with six of seven sectors expanding on the month. Only the motor vehicle and parts category recorded a drop. Excluding that auto sector, wholesales were up 2.2 per cent in March.

Building materials and supplies rose 4.5 per cent, while machinery and equipment wholesalers recorded a 2.9 per cent gain.

The strong print was underpinned by a one per cent gain in volumes -- the strongest since May 2018.