FORT ST. JOHN -- Canadian energy contractors are facing a shortage of rig workers that could slow oilpatch recovery.

Oil and gas companies are ramping up production to meet global energy demand as COVID-19 restrictions ease. Oil prices are at seven-year highs, with West Texas Intermediate trading this week at more than US$80 per barrel.

The Canadian Association of Energy Contractors says there were 175 active drilling rigs in Canada last week, compared to just 75 in the same period last year. It says employment in the sector has increased 130 per cent year-over-year.

But the industry group says labour shortages are a problem. It says some companies who can't find workers are struggling to fill customer demand for rigs.

Companies are finding it difficult to attract workers back to the oil and gas sector after a six-year economic downturn. Some rig workers have left Western Canada while others have retrained in other industries.

The Canadian Association of Energy Contractors says wages for rig workers have already increased by about 10 per cent from last year due to market demand.