Lancaster has long been viewed as the cultural, commercial and economic heartbeat of Lancashire. Situated on the River Lune and with a population of around 45,000, Lancaster grew up around the canal and port, becoming a key trading post to export textiles and even slaves to West Africa during the 18th century. During the industrial revolution the manufacture of cotton was a crucial part of the region's economy but as that sector has faded, the service industry has grown to become the biggest source of employment for local staff. Recruitment agencies will also seek to place candidates in the manufacturing sector, with chemical plants, paper production and textiles still responsible for many jobs in the area, thanks to companies such as Canon Hygiene. It is, however, the public sector that employs the most staff in the area, with the headquarters of Lancashire County Council based in the city and the University of Lancaster employing almost 7,000 people alone. Indeed, more than a third of Lancaster's working population is employed in the public sector, with the city's two NHS hospitals employing around 900 staff. Recruitment agencies will also have positions in the retail sector, with a buoyant high street and strong student population, ensuring restaurants, bars and nightclubs are always looking for staff. Tourism will also provide a strong part of the local economy, accounting for around 1 in 10 jobs in the area. Unemployment has, however, risen in the area in recent years, increasing by 1% to 4.4% in 2012, above the national average. The average weekly pay in the area is, however, a competitive £469 per week.
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