Inflation in the Washington area was 11.9 percent last year, substantially less than the nationwide figure of 13.5 percent, the government said yesterday. The Labor Department also said that prices here rose by 1.4 percent for the two-month period ending with January.

It seemed clear from the figures that inflation here did not match the national tabulation because housing, fuel and utility and public transportation costs did not match the national average, although the government's local price data was for two-month periods, with the last period ended Jan. 31.

For example, housing costs across the country rose by 12.9 percent for the year ending Jan. 31, 1981, while local housing costs rose by 11.6 percent. During the same period, fuel and utility costs rose by 14.7 percent nationwide, while in the Washington area those prices jumped by 10.8 percent. While public transportation prices rose by 26.3 percent nationally, in this area they rose by 20.7 percent.

On the other hand, inflation in the Washington area topped the national figures in other vital areas, according to the government. The cost of fuel oil, coal and bottled gas rose by 21.6 percent nationally, while in this area costs of those same energy materials rose by 26.9 percent. And national grocery prices rose by 10.4 percent for the 12 months ending Jan. 31, while the comparable local figure was 13.4 percent.

For the most recent two months, the increases in the cost of food slowed, as prices rose by 1.1 percent, compared to the 1.9 percent rise in food costs for the two months ending with November. Grocery store prices rose by 1.5 percent.

In particular, the costs of fruits and vegetables actually dropped by 2.1 percent for the recent two-month period.

The rate of inflation for housing costs here also dropped, the government said, reporting a 1.7 percent increase in housing costs for the period ending with January, compared with a 2.5 percent price rise for the previous two moths.