Directors of the General Motors Corp. voted yesterday to pay a dividend of 60 cents per share for the third quarter, holding the payout level steady despite record operating losses.

GM lost $468 million in the third quarter, and financial analysts had been speculating that the auto industry giant might reduce or suspend quarterly dividend payments. The decision by the directors, however, was to hold to the same dividend level as in each of the six previous quarters.

Hit hard by the nationwide auto sales slump and the high costs of developing and promoting its new models, GM has been facing a steady erosion of its cash reserves. Reports from Detroit say the company has cut back sharply on machine tool orders and product development in an attempt to conserve resources.

A dividend payment of 60 cents per share will cost the company approximately $180 million, industry analysts said, and reduce its cash holdings to about $500 million, about a quarter of what they were two years ago.

David Healy, auto industry analyst at the New York firm of Drexel Burnham Lambert, said the dwindling cash reserves might force GM to borrow to finance new-model development and equipment purchases next year. The decision to hold steady on the dividends, he said, apparently reflects GM's belief that it will show a profit in the fourth quarter of 1981 and that "the sharp reduction in dividends their stockholders took last year was enough."

For 1979, GM paid a total annual dividend of $5.30 per share.

The financial troubles at GM have not reached the magnitude of those at Chrysler or Ford, but they have caused concern within the company and forced it to retrench on several fronts.