Despite Job Loss, U.S. Manufacturing Still Leads On Friday, the Labor Department released more grim news: Another 663,000 jobs disappeared last month. That sent the unemployment rate up to 8.5 percent. This recession has been especially hard on people who work in factories. Since the recession began in December 2007, U.S. companies have wiped out 1.5 million manufacturing jobs. Yet the U.S. remains by far the world's leading manufacturer, as measured by value of goods produced.