Wholesale prices continued to rise at an uncomfortable pace in January and the price of food ready to be sold to grocery stores jumped sharply last month.

The Labor Department reported what wholesale prices of finished goods, those, ready to be sold to final business or consumer users, rose 0.6 percent in January, about the same rate as in each of the three previous months. That works out to an annual rate of about 7.4 percent.

These prices should show up at retail within the next several months.

More ominously, there was a sharp 0.9 percent jump in the prices of intermediate goods - those about six or nine months from final sale - and the fourth month in a row of large increases in unprocessed or crude materials.

White House spokesman Rex Granum said the January price increases did not present any evidence "to suggest that the underlying trend of inflation is worsening."

Administration economists, such as Council of Economic Advisers Chairmen Charles L. Schultze, have said that inflation seems to be stuck in a range between 6 percent and 7 percent at the consumer level.

The underlying inflation rate represents the difference between wage increases and increases in output of goods and services of worker, called productivity.

Granum said that while inflation might not be getting worse, the "persistence at high levels of these wholesale price increases underscores the difficulty of the inflation problem which we face."

He said it underscores the need "for cooperation with the president's program of voluntary deceleration of price and wage increases."

John Layng, top price analyst for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, said the 0.9 percent increase in intermediate products could be worrisome if it continues beyond one month. He noted that the increase was "fairly broad-based" and the highest in this area since last April.

but the 0.6 per cent rise in finished goods means that for the next several months retail prices, except perhaps in the food store, should continue to rise at the 6 to 7 percent rate they have averaged for several years.

Prices of food about to be sold to supermarkets jumped 1.1 percent last month, after rising a revised 0.5 percent in December and 1.2 percent in November. Prices for nonfood infinished goods rose 0.6 percent.

The Labor Department cited price increases of fresh fruits and vegetables, cocoa, beef, poultry and veal. Prices fell for eggs, fish, pork and bakery products.

Among finished goods bought by producers, prices rose for generators, railroad equipment, measuring instruments and motor trucks. Metal-forming machine tools fell.

Much of the rise to intermediate materials was caused by construction-related materials, but there were also increases for commercial jet and diesel fuels, plastic product, metals and tires and tubes. Industrial chemicals and paper products fell.

The 2 per cent rise in crude materials was led by a 2.8 per cent jump in food prices - mainly livestock, live poultry and oilseeds - while nonfood crude materials such as scrap metals, crude petroleum and plant and animal fibers rose 1.4 per cent.

The separate finished intermediate and crude materials indexes replace an overall wholesale price index that measured all three lumped together. The overall measure often double and triple-counted price increases. The old index rose 0.9 per cent in January following a revised 0.4 per cent December increase.

In another development, the Federal Reserve Board reported that consumer borrowings rose $2.7 billion in December to a total of $216.6 billion. Over the year consumer credit rose 16.7 per cent.

Nearly half of the $2.7 billion increase was for auto loans. The Federal Reserve also cited increase in loans for mobile homes, home improvement and bank credit cards.

Consumers have $79.4 billion of automobile loans outstanding, a 20.1 per cent rise from the end of 1976.