Dr. Janet Norwood, 55, acting commissioner of Labor Statistics for more than a year, was sworn in as commissioner on May 18 in a ceremony in Labor Secretary Ray Marshall's office.

Although the Labor Department issued a press release on May 18, there was no notice taken of the event at the White House. Some observers said yesterday the White House had missed an opportunity to call attention to the appointment of a woman to a high post - and a career employe for the past 16 years, at that.

But Norwood commented in the telephone conversation that it woud have been "unusual" for the White House to have made political use of her appointment, and that any special attention would have been out of time.

The BLS Commissioner - a rank equivalent to assistant - is responsible for guiding a massive statistical operation concerning prices, wages and employment. The monthly reports on unemployment and consumer price movements, for example, are issued by the BLS.

Norwood had been acting commissioner since April 1978, when former Commissioner Julius Shiskin died last Oct. 30.

Shortly after that, Marshall recommended Norwood's promotion, but a long time elapsed until the president sent her nominations to the Hill on March 27, 1979. Norwood said yesterday this delay was attributable to a combination of the usual paper work and the lack of "pressure." She added: "After all, essentially, I was in the job."

The nomination ran into the Easter recess. But she was unanimously approved on May 3 by the Committee on Labor and Human Resources, and confirmed by the Senate on May 16.

Press relations officials at the Labor Department say they have seen few if any clippings on Norwood's move from acting to full status as commissioner, and have no way of explaining the "inattention" of the press.

Norwood has a bachelor's degree from Douglas College (Rutgers), and a masters and doctorate from Tufts University. She taught economics at both Tufts and Wellesley before joining the Labor Department. CAPTION: Picture, DR. JANET NORWOOD . . . succeeds Shiskin