BOSTON -- Thousands more Massachusetts workers joined the unemployment ranks in the past week, as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to shut down wide swaths of the economy.

There were 181,062 new unemployment claims filed in the state for the week that ended March 28, compared to 147,995 in the previous week and 7,449 two weeks prior, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday.

New Hampshire reported 27,454 new jobless claims, a decrease from 29,379 in the previous week but higher than 642 in three weeks ago, according to the report.

Nationally more than 6.6 million new jobless claims were filed in the past week, according to the Labor Department. That tops the all-time high set the previous week, when more than 3.2 million Americans filed initial claims. The pre-coronavirus record was 695,000 claims, set in October 1982, according to federal data.

The Labor Department said the layoffs affected a range of industries, from transportation and entertainment to food services and health care.

"Many states continued to cite the health care and social assistance, and manufacturing industries, while an increasing number of states identified the retail and wholesale trade and construction industries," the report noted.

The latest data illustrate the deepening economic fallout of federal and state government policies to stem the spread of the coronavirus, with economists warning of a decline that could rival the Great Depression.

On Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 4.4%, driven lower by worsening economic data and President Trump’s warning that the United States was set for a "very, very painful two weeks."

Nearly 217,000 Americans have been infected with COVID-19 as of Thursday, with 5,137 deaths reported.

Massachusetts had reported 7,738 infections and 122 deaths as of Wednesday at 4 p.m.

Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency on March 10 and has taken other preventative steps that have shuttered businesses across the state. He said the actions are key to halting the spread of the virus and preventing the state's health care system from becoming overwhelmed with infected patients.

Meanwhile, self-employed workers who don't qualify for unemployment benefits are waiting for action from the state and federal government, which has pledged to provide jobless benefits to those workers.

About 15.9 million Americans -- 10% of the country's workforce -- are self-employed, according to federal data.

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites.

Recommended for you