U.S. energy firms this week added oil and natural gas rigs for the first time in four weeks, energy services firm Baker Hughes Co. said in its closely-followed report on Dec. 22.

The oil and gas rig count, an early indicator of future output, rose by three to 779 in the week to Dec. 22.

Baker Hughes released the report a day early due to the upcoming Christmas holiday weekend.

Baker Hughes said that puts the total rig count up 193 rigs, or 33%, over this time last year.

U.S. oil rigs rose by two to 622 this week, while gas rigs rose one to 155.

U.S. oil futures were up about 3% so far this year after soaring 55% in 2021.

Even though several energy firms have boosted spending for a second year in a row in 2022 after cutting drilling and completion expenditures in 2019 and 2020, crude production has remained below record levels seen in 2019.

That's because many energy companies are focusing more on returning money to investors and paying down debt rather than boosting output.

In addition, analysts said some energy firms did not use this year's capital spending increase to boost production but instead spent the money on more expensive equipment and rising labor costs due to soaring inflation and supply disruptions.

U.S. crude production was on track to rise from 11.25 MMbbl/d in 2021 to 11.87 MMbbl/d in 2022 and 12.34 MMbbl/d in 2023, according to federal energy data. That compares with a record 12.32 MMbbl/d in 2019.