Forgive me for sounding like a, like a, like a broken record, but offshore driller Noble (NYSE: NE) keeps breaking records.

Revenue came in 49% higher than last year's fourth quarter, and 43% higher for the full year. Earnings per share, boosted by a moderate buyback program, lifted 68% for the year.

Just as important as the very high revenue and profit numbers was Noble's quarterly contract drilling margin of 68%, which looks flat compared to last quarter's results until you move out an extra decimal place. That might sound picky, but Noble itself noted the 0.4% dip, so you can be assured that management watches this figure vigilantly.

Noble's jackup fleet lived up to its name and jacked up both utilization and average dayrates in the quarter. The 98% utilization rate bested the previous quarter and had everything to do with the 10% sequential lift in dayrates.

If you're wondering how this is possible, given all that we've heard about softness in the Gulf of Mexico, the simple answer is that Noble's jackups are all located elsewhere. These versatile rigs are off working for Pemex in Mexico, ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) in Nigeria, and TOTAL S.A. (NYSE: TOT) in Qatar.

The only glum shallow-water Gulf dwellers are a trio of soggy submersibles, one of which has been "cold stacked." This means that it's not bidding for work or maintaining a crew. The deepwater Gulf is, of course, a whole other dance. Noble is having no trouble renewing contracts there, as demonstrated by new deals struck with Marathon Oil (NYSE: MRO) and private operator LLOG.

There's a very tight labor market out there, which Noble identified as a major near-term challenge. The acute issue is that a lot of spec rigs ordered by new entrants will hit the market this year, and they'll need crews.

That means it's poaching season, and there's only so much goodwill that a company like Noble or Diamond Offshore (NYSE: DO) can build up with its employees to keep them from following the almighty dollar, kroner, or ringgit elsewhere.

Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. Total is an Income Investor selection. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.