Ford Motor Co. reported world-wide record dollars sales, vehicle sales and employment for 1978 here today. Total earnings slipped slightly, down 5 percent to $1.6 billion on $13.55 per share, still the automaker's second-best year.

Although fourth-quarter sales rose 11 percent from a year earlier to $11.2 billion, profits fell 28 percent to $282 million ($2.35 a share) from record fourth-quarter profits in 1977 of $393 million ($3.32).

Despite two pronounced international losses, Ford's overseas operations contributed a dramatic 48 percent or $770 million of its total profits of $1.589 million compared to 42 percent or $705 million of a total $1.673 million in 1977.

A statement by Ford Chairman Henry Ford II and president Philip Caldwell acclaimed the "strong performance worldwide in the company's 75th year. "They said the U.S. economy's performance now "depends in large part on government actions."

A nine-week strike at Ford's English plants cost the company 183,000 vehicles or $195 million in after tax profits ($1.63 a share), they said. The disposal of a chronically red-ink French construction equipment and tractor manufacturing subsidiary, which is still incomplete, cost another 85 cents a share or approximately $100 million.

The Ford report highlighted what is increasingly called the "Big II" and "Little II" separation in this city.General Motors Corp. recently reported record 1978 profits of $3.5 billion on record world-wide sales of $63.2 billion.

Chrysler Corp., whose financial report for 1978 will not be out for another week or so, has just said again it hopes the final quarter of 1978 "will be in the black" But few here doubt that it will impact significantly on the earlier record nine-month record loss of $250 million on sales of $10.2 billion.

Ford paid an adjusted $3.50 per share dividend during 1978, compared to $3.04 in 1977. Earlier the company had announced that the sale of 91.5 acres of undeveloped land in Japan had resulted in a gain of 29 cents a share, but further details on that transaction have not been made public.

Ford's per share 1978 profits were $13.35 compared to $14.16 last year. Worldwide employment was 507,000 during the year, up six percent from 480,000 in 1977. In the United States, the company's employment grew 7 percent, or 17,000.

The company sold 6,552,000 cars, trucks and tractors worldwide in 1978 compared to 6,550,000 in 1977, Cald-well and Ford said. Sales rose 13 percent to $42.8 billion, up from $37.8 billion in 1977.

The Ford executives cited four items that worked against the automaker during the year: Increased costs of materials, labor, new product development and the meeting of government standards. Partially offsetting those, they pointed to two items: Highter sales volumes and gains in productivity.

They said the company will spend $2.5 billion in capital spending during 1978, up 44 percent from $1.8 billion in 1977.