Capital investment in Maryland topped $1 billion in 1981 for the third consecutive year, but industrial growth and economic development were hampered by the recession, James O. Roberson, secretary of the Department of Economic and Community Development, said yesterday.

With the recession's impact continuing to be felt in key employment sectors, 1982 will be difficult for the state's economy, Roberson indicated.

Roberson said at least 400 firms in Maryland either invested, or announced plans to invest, a total of $1.19 billion in new or expanded facilities in the state during 1981. As a result, more than 26,000 jobs eventually will be added in the state, he said.

The combined capital investment of $3.6 billion in the state during the past three years should produce more than 72,000 jobs over the next four to seven years, Roberson estimated here during a report on the state's economy.

However, the nationwide economic slowdown has taken its toll on manufacturing employment in Maryland, resulting in a 2 percent decline last year, the DECD reported.

Much of the decline in employment was attributed to the recession's impact on the auto and steel industries in Maryland.

In addition, the recession has forced several firms to postpone plans to expand, which translates into a potential loss to the state of 3,500 jobs and $150 million in capital investment.

Roberson said 57 companies--most of them from out of state--informed his office last year that they had "shelved their plans" to expand.

"I think that clearly says that this year is going to be a tough year for us," Roberson said. "I guess every indicator you can look at suggests that '82--at least the early part of '82--is not going to be terribly bright.

"Most of the forecasts I've read at least suggest that the second half will be much better than the first half of the year. If that's the case, then we should certainly benefit from that in the second half but I don't think the prospects for '82 are as good as they were in '80 and '79."

One of the bright spots in Maryland's economy last year was the travel and tourism industry, said Roberson. A study prepared for the DEDC's Office of Tourist Development shows that travelers spent $2.5 billion in Maryland in 1980, generating about $95.5 million in tax revenues and more than 71,000 jobs.

Preliminary figures for 1981 indicate that despite the recession, tourism and travel in the state increased more than 19 percent.

Other industries, particularly those related to electronics and electric equipment, continue to do well.