More than 55,000 Massachusetts residents filed unemployment insurance claims last week, about 22 percent less than the week before, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor.

These newly unemployed add to a total of more than 557,000 receiving unemployment in the state, according to federal data.

Nationwide, some 3.2 million people filed for unemployment last week, down about 677,000 from the week before. The advanced seasonally adjusted insurance unemployment rate surged to 15.5 percent for the week ending April 25, up 3.1 percentage points from the previous week.

Michael D. Goodman, executive director of the public policy center at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, said the number of unemployed “is astoundingly high.’’ He says it’s not clear whether slowdown in applications is because there are less people applying or the system for processing claims is slowing. He expects numbers to climb in Massachusetts, particularly among workers in the public sector and in higher education.

“The colleges and universities have been very stalwart county cyclical employment stabilizers,’’ he said. “This time is not like the others.”

The insured unemployment rate in Massachusetts rose to 14.9 percent during the week ending April 18, federal data shows. This is lower than many other New England states that reported some of highest rates in nation — with Vermont at 25.2 percent, Rhode Island at 20.4 percent and Connecticut at 18.7 percent.

Goodman says Massachusetts has fared somewhat better because more workers in the state are higher-educated professionals who can work from home. But, he said, there is little good economic news coming.

“The national economy is not breathing on its own right now,’’ he said.