Citing some signs of a national economic recovery, General Electric Co. reported yesterday that its first-quarter earnings were 13 percent higher and sales 1 percent higher than in the same period of 1982.

Among earnings reports yesterday:

* Whirlpool Corp., another manufacturer of household appliances, announced that profits rose by 44 percent on increased sales of 10 percent in the first quarter over the same period a year ago.

* CBS Inc. said its first-quarter profit rose 13 percent on a 6 percent gain in revenue as record division profits doubled.

* International Paper Co. first-quarter profits and sales increased, mainly because of the sale of timberlands in northern California.

* Mellon National Corp.'s net income rose by 29 percent on improved interest and fee income.

GE's first-quarter earnings were $425 million ($1.87 a share), up from $377 million ($1.66) for the first quarter of 1982. Sales during the same period were $6.1 billion, up from the $6.02 billion for the corresponding quarter.

Chairman John F. Welch Jr. said the gain stemmed mostly from cost-cutting. Welch said that General Credit Corp., the nuclear services, the aerospace and aircraft engine divisions continued last year's gains and that recovery has begun in the major appliance and plastics operations as a result of improvement in the housing industry and various consumer products industries.

But he said industrial components and equipment, electronics, machine tools and certain GE businesses remain depressed because of low capital spending.

Whirlpool Corp. had first-quarter earnings of $41 million ($1.11 a share) on sales of $603 million, compared with 1982 first-quarter earnings of $28 million (78 cents) on sales of $550 million.

Whirlpool attributed its improved performance to an increase in shipments of laundry and builder-related products such as dishwashers and ranges, said Chairman Jack Sparks.

CBS Inc. said that net income was $17.9 million (60 cents a share), up from $15.7 million (56 cents). However, 1982 first-quarter net was after a loss of $4.5 million on discontinued retail stores and advertiser-supported cable programming servies, and the 1982 profit was restated for an accounting change that added 12 cents a share. Revenue rose to $1.039 billion from $979.4 million.

President Thomas H. Wyman said "we are excited by the dramatic first-quarter turnaround" in the music group, as profits doubled although revenue was about even with last year.

CBS Broadcast profit declined to $24.4 million from $44.8 million a year earlier in spite of a rise in revenue to $560.9 million from $520.4 million.

Wyman said the broadcast profit shrinkage was due to higher television costs and to the NFL Superbowl and the NCAA basketball championships broadcasts coming in the second quarter this year instead of the first quarter.

The publishing group had a $9.4 million loss in spite of an $8 million sales gain.

International Paper Co. first-quarter earnings rose 16 percent to $69.5 million ($1.27 a share) from $60 million ($1.08) in the same period last year on the strength of a $63.5 million gain on the timber sale.

First-quarter results a year ago had included pre-tax proceeds of $26.7 million from the sale of tax benefits.

Sales were up 10 percent to $1.1 billion from $1 billion.

Mellon National Corp. net income climbed to $38.6 million ($1.96 a share) in the first quarter from $29.9 million ($1.52) a year earlier. It is the holding company for Mellon National Bank of Pittsburgh.

J. David Barnes, Mellon's president and chief executive officer, said net interest income rose to $127.7 million from $95.6 million a year ago, reflecting improved spreads between the cost of funds and income from loans and leases.

The results do not include Mellon's just-concluded acquisition of Philadelphia's Girard Co., another bank holding company, in a merger.

Ranked by assets, the new combine would move Mellon from the 15th-largest bank holding company to the 12th largest.