North Dakota's oil output was down a tad in February, though the state's natural gas production rose to a record high.

The nation's second-largest oil producing state churned out 1.17 million barrels of oil per day in February, down 0.4 percent from January, according to data released Friday by the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources.

Natural gas production rose 1.5 percent to 2.1 million MCFs per day; an MCF is 1,000 cubic feet of gas.

"There were big movements in gas capture, which is really nice to see," Lynn Helms, director of North Dakota's Department of Mineral Resources, said in a conference call with reporters.

Rising gas production is encouraging as North Dakota's regulations on natural gas flaring will become more stringent later this year. While more than 85 percent of the state's natural gas is captured and processed, the rest is burned off — a waste and an environmental liability. Producers are moving to build more pipelines, gas processing facilities and other gas infrastructure.

The outlook is generally good for the oil and gas industry in North Dakota, and throughout the country. The world's biggest oil-exporting nations have restricted production to support prices, while global crude demand has been bolstered by solid economic growth worldwide.

North Dakota's drilling rig count is currently at 60, up from 57 in February and 51 a year ago this month. A rising rig total indicates that operators are drilling more new oil wells. "We could see another seven to 10 rigs by the end of the year," Helms said.

As the industry surges, Helms noted that labor markets are getting tighter: "There are thousands of jobs open in Dickinson, Williston and Watford City," three key oil-patch cities.