Prime Minister Tony Abbott believes there are “significant positive signs” in the economy, describing the latest figures as very strong.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has described the latest retail sales figures as “very strong” and growing at their fastest annual pace in almost five years.

Retail numbers released on Thursday showed spending rose by a much larger than expected 1.2 per cent in January, compared with December, to be just shy of $23 billion.

The data followed Wednesday’s national accounts that showed economic growth running at a more positive 2.8 per cent, led by rising exports.

“While there is a long way to go, there are significant positive signs,” Mr Abbott told parliament.

But he said the government had much more to do to get the fundamentals right, which meant getting taxes and red tape down, getting productivity up, and building the infrastructure that businesses needed.

“If we can do all that, there will be more jobs, more prosperity for all Australians,” he said.