Washington is a small town that is almost equidistant between the north-east cities of Newcastle, Sunderland and Durham. It was recognised as one of the UK's 'new towns' in the 1960s.
The town of Washington suffered badly as the mining of coal in the UK started to wind down in the 1980s, and the region suffered terribly with unemployment as a result. However, regional incentives and government subsidies have helped Washington to attract a diverse range of industries and employers to the area. The Nissan automotive plant is a major employer for Washington and the surrounding areas, and a number of companies that supply Europe's most productive car factory are also based in the town. The retail, textiles and chemical industries also offer several opportunities for gainful employment.
The competition for jobs in Washington is fierce, as the percentage of people claiming job seeker's allowance in the area is almost double that of the national average, according to statistics from Nomis. Most people in the town are employed in clerical positions, yet many recruitment agencies in the area specialise in sourcing processing and machine operatives due to the huge influence Nissan and their suppliers have on the area. The Galleries shopping centre is the largest employer of retail and hospitality staff in a town that is dominated by manufacturing.