Employment continues to improve across the nation with more than three-quarters of jobs lost during the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic now restored.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said payroll jobs rose by a further 0.4 per cent across the fortnight to November 28.

“More than three-quarters of payroll jobs lost to mid-April had been regained by the end of November, however they remained 2.0 per cent lower than mid-March,” the bureau’s Bjorn Jarvis said.

The figures are a prelude to the official labour force figures due on Thursday.

Economists expect a less spectacular 40,000 increase in the number of people employed during November, after the surprising 178,800 surge in October.

That is expected to keep the unemployment rate at seven per cent, still shy of the 22-year high of 7.5 per cent seen in June.

In the Reserve Bank board’s minutes of its December 1 meeting that were also released on Tuesday, it notes employment had been recovering strongly.

“The peak in the unemployment rate was likely to be lower than the eight per cent rate expected a month earlier,” the minutes said.

Meanwhile, consumer confidence has struck new highs for 2020, which should have retailers rubbing their hands in anticipation of a strong Christmas shopping season.

The ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index rose 1.7 per cent in the past week to 111.2 points, with most of the survey’s sub-indices now back or even higher than their pre-pandemic levels.

The ‘confidence in future economic conditions’ index is at an 18-month high.

However, one exception to the trend, ‘current financial conditions’, is still 10 per cent lower than at the start of the pandemic in mid-March.

“Despite this exception, the rise in confidence bodes well for the holiday season,” ANZ head of Australian economics David Plank said.

Consumer confidence is a pointer to future household spending.

A separate analysis by Deloitte Access Economics says the retail industry has weathered the pandemic remarkably well, and the Christmas period is looking more positive for retailers than previously expected.

In its Retail Forecasts report, it notes the December quarter will be the first with limited COVID-19 restrictions since the second wave hit Victoria.

Pent-up demand was already starting to lift spending through October.

That follows the sharp 6.5 per cent rebound in retail volumes in the September quarter from a significant drop in the June quarter.

Deloitte forecasts retail turnover growth of 5.6 per cent in 2020/21 after a flat result in 2019/20 and 1.2 per cent in 2018/19.