(Bloomberg) -- Paychecks in the US shale patch climbed to a fresh record as employment held steady and explorers prepare for low activity growth next year in order to maintain their production levels.

Average hourly earnings for frontline oil-and-gas workers rose 1.3% in October from the previous month to $44.11, according to a Labor Department report released Friday. Compared with a year ago, oil pay is up 5.4%. The strength in wages matched a national trend. 

Shale explorers are expected to boost the number of drilled US land-based wells next year by less than 1%, far below the 10% growth expected overseas, according to industry data provider Kimberlite International Oilfield Research. Efficiency gains in drilling have allowed explorers to sustain production levels with fewer rigs.

“In 2024, we are forecasting relatively flattish capex trends for our US E&P coverage, which is in sharp contrast to the 24% increase in 2023 capex,” JPMorgan Chase & Co. analysts including Arun Jayaram wrote this week in a note to investors.

The jobless rate in the oil and natural gas industry slipped to 2.2% in November on an unadjusted basis, government figures show. That compares with an unemployment rate of 3.1% a year earlier and is lower than the overall US level.

The total number of workers employed in the sector fell less than 1% on a month-over-month basis to 118,400 in November.

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