(Bloomberg) -- Wages for US oil workers climbed above $43 an hour for the first time ever as employment held steady in the shale patch and explorers push to maintain their slow production growth.

Average hourly earnings for front-line oil-and-gas workers rose 0.7% in April from the previous month to $43.28, according to a Labor Department report released Friday. Compared with a year ago, pay is up 12%. The relative strength in shale employment data bucked an overall national trend in the economy that saw the jobless rate jump and paycheck growth ease.

The rising wages indicate that US oil companies aren’t shedding workers as the price of crude is down by more than a third from a year ago but rather maintaining their push for slow, steady growth. Explorers seem less concerned with the level of wages and more about simply having enough workers at the job site to maintain a consistent drilling program.

“Wages have gotten back to pre-COVID levels, but it’s nothing exorbitant,” Ezra Yacob, chief executive officer for shale giant EOG Resources Inc., said this week at the Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference in New York. “When you’re running a drilling rig and you expect a six-man crew and you have a four-man crew come up, there’s going to be less efficiencies there.”

Read More: US Labor Market Sends Mixed Signals, Giving Fed Reason to Pause

The jobless rate in oil and natural gas held at 1.8% in May on an unadjusted basis, government figures show. That compares with an unemployment rate of 4.1% a year earlier. 

The overall number of workers employed in the industry totaled 119,000 in May, down 3.2% from last year’s peak.

(Updates with comment from CEO in fourth paragraph)

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