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The Brisbane economy has started to "bounce back" from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, with retail spending in the 2020 November-to-December period one of the biggest in a decade, new data released by the Brisbane City Council shows.
Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said foot traffic was steadily returning to the CBD, currently at 58 per cent of its normal capacity.
"The Queen Street Mall today is a very different picture than it was in 2020," Cr Schrinner said.
"In April 2020, foot traffic plummeted to just 20 per cent of pre-COVID levels, but now we see more and more shoppers, workers and visitors returning to the CBD.
"It's still down significantly — there's still growth to happen and that's one of the reasons why we're encouraging people to come in and there's signs that things are getting busier this week."
Foot traffic peaked over the Christmas period, with people coming in to the CBD to shop.
"Foot traffic on the Queen Street Mall peaked at about 80 per cent of pre-COVID levels, exceeding the long-run average in 2020 for the first time since the city went into lockdown earlier that year," Cr Schrinner said.
Retail spending in outer suburbs on the rise
Spending was also up across Brisbane, particularly in outer suburbs, which was welcome news for retail businesses doing it tough throughout 2020.
"In Brisbane, spending with a bank card was also up 6 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019, with retail spend hitting more than $23 billion, which is an increase of about $1.4 billion," Cr Schrinner said.
"The biggest spenders were in our outer suburbs, which reflects the introduction of State Government restrictions and more people working from home.
"Virginia recorded the largest increase in electronic retail spend in 2020, with an increase of $122 million, followed by Belmont, Milton, Everton Park, Eagle Farm, Oxley, Hamilton, Salisbury, Manly and Newstead.
"Data shows that in December 2020 electronic retail spending in the CBD was on par with 2019 levels for the first time, which is fantastic news for our local businesses, and I hope this trend continues."
National Retail Association (NRA) chief executive officer Dominique Lamb said consumer confidence was down during lockdown but had since grown, with people more willing to spend money on luxury items, dining out and short holidays closer to home.
"Add to this the recent back-to-school spending, and it has been a very promising start to the year," Ms Lamb said.
"We are confident that this trend will continue into 2021."
Job numbers on the rise
BCC economic development chair Krista Adams said job numbers were also on the rise and were on track to recover to pre-pandemic levels by March 2022.
Cr Adams said the data showed a 4 per cent decrease in the number of businesses applying for JobKeeper.
"Council will continue to monitor this data to help shape our response to coronavirus, led by our Economic Recovery Taskforce, so we can continue to identify and deliver initiatives to support our economy," she said.
More jobs are also expected to be created through local infrastructure projects after a $40 million cash injection into the Brisbane City Council from the Federal Government.
The stimulus funding will be used to upgrade bikeways, install additional lighting and build new footpaths among other small-scale projects.