Woodward & Lothrop Inc. yesterday reported as 27.8 percent profits rise for its second quarter as the local retailer continued to show signs of rebounding from flat 1980 results.

For the quarter ending Aug. 1, the company reported profits of $1.31 million (53 cents a share), up from second-quarter profits a year earlier of $1.02 million (41 cents). Sales for the quarter lose to $74.1 million from $65.6 million.

For the first six months of Woodie's fiscal year, profits have risen 45.8 percent from $1.56 million (63 cents) last year to $2.27 million (92 cents) this year. Sales rose from $130.97 million last year to $146.1 million this year.

"We view the fall with optimism," said Edwin K. Hoffman, the company's chairman. "The recent easing of inflation rates and rising consumer confidence, coupled with the recent tax reductions, effective the latter part of the year, will have a positive effect on fall busines."

Hoffman attributed the quarterly results to "strong" sales and "tight expense controls." But he did say that high interest rates "continue to have a negative impact on earnings."

In another report, E.C. Ernst Inc. said yesterday that it had a second-quarter loss of $62,000 compared with losses of $1.59 million for the same quarter in 1980. The electrical contracting and construction company has been operating under bankruptcy laws since Dec. 1, 1978.

Net income dropped to $3.8 million from $14.9 million for the 1980 second quarter, and contract income dropped from $12.2 million last year to $11.1 million this year.

"For the first time since the Chapter XI case began, results were not handicapped by unprofitable prepetition work," said Joseph E. Griffin, chairman of E.C. Enrst. "It shows what a restructured Ernst can do stablilized by consolidated operations and tight controls."

Griffin said that the company's backlog as of June 30 had risen to $34 million, up from $30 million a year earlier.