The number of UK workers on company payrolls has surged by more than 120,000 above pre-pandemic levels after a record jump in September as vacancies remained above a million for the second month running, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the number of payrolled workers rose by 207,000 between August and September to a record 29.2 million.

This was 122,000 higher than levels seen before the pandemic struck in February 2020.

The data also showed another record leap in job vacancies, estimated to be up by nearly 1.2 million in September.

Britain’s recovery in the jobs market saw the rate of unemployment fall further to 4.5% between June and August, down from 4.6% in the quarter to July, the ONS added.

With furlough support coming to a close at the end of last month, the latest figures showed the redundancy rate decreased in the three months to August, to 3.6 per 1,000 employees, which is similar to pre-pandemic levels.

Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS, said: “The jobs market has continued to recover from the effects of the coronavirus, with the number of employees on payroll in September now well exceeding pre-pandemic levels.

“Vacancies also reached a new one-month record in September, at nearly 1.2 million, with our latest estimates suggesting that all industries have at least as many jobs on offer now as before the onset of Covid-19.”

But the ONS flagged the impact of the mounting recruitment crisis in the UK, with recent analysis showing a raft of sectors struggling to fill posts as vacancies rose 318,000 above levels seen before Covid.

The hospitality sector is finding it the most difficult to recruit, according to recent ONS analysis, with nearly a third (30%) saying it is harder than normal to fill vacancies.

In another sign of the buoyant recruitment market, the ONS said the biggest rise in vacancies was seen in the administration and support sector – namely temporary employment agencies – with a 165,000 increase.

Hospitality firms were looking to fill 32,000 jobs in September.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “As we move to the next stage of our support, it’s encouraging to see our Plan for Jobs working – the number of expected redundancies remained very low in September, there are more employees on payrolls than ever before and the unemployment rate has fallen for eight months in a row.”

The figures showed unemployment fell 126,000 in the quarter to August to 1.5 million, while employment rose 235,000 to 32.4 million.

Wages enjoyed another steep rise, with average weekly earnings up 7.2% with bonuses or 6% without bonuses in the three months to August.

But the ONS stressed that the earnings figures continue to be skewed by certain factors, with lower paid jobs being hit hardest by the pandemic.