The Commerce Department predicted yesterday that 23 of 29 major industries it surveyed will do better this year than in 1982 as the economy moves from recession to recovery.

But department experts said even some of the industries that are recovering still will be in depressed states in 1983, and several important industries like steel and automobiles are likely never again to attain the production and employment levels they achieved in the late 1970s.

The Reagan administration's payment-in-kind program--designed to restrain farm production to reduce crop surpluses and raise farm produce prices--will ensure a continued recession among producers of agricultural chemicals and farm equipment, the department predicted. Depressed oil prices will prevent any recovery in the oil field equipment industry.

The commercial construction, contruction machinery and machine tool industries will fare worse in 1983 than they did last year, according to department forecasters.

John E. Cremeans, director of the Office of Research and Statistics at the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industrial Economics, said the recovery so far "is following classic lines," with autos and housing leading the way and industries that depend heavily upon them--such as lumber, steel, appliances, plastics and furniture--being pulled out of the economic doldrums as well.

Last December, when the department made its initial industry performance forecast for 1983, it said it expected 1983 gross national product--the total output of the economy--to be 3.7 percent higher than in 1982.

Yesterday, Cremeans told reporters that he anticipates economic growth of between 2.5 percent and 3 percent this year, attributing the lowered estimate to a delay in the start of the recovery.

Among the major industries surveyed by the department were:

* Automobiles. The value of car shipments will rise 30 percent this year, and 1984 could be "close to a boom year," according to department analyst Robert Coleman. But over the long term, Coleman said, the industry will never return to its late 1970s peak, when slightly more than 1 million persons worked for the major manufacturers--General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, American Motors and Volkswagen of America. He said that only about 100,000 of the roughly 270,000 unemployed workers in the industry will be rehired.

* Housing. The housing industry is recovering faster than other industries, according to analyst Gerald Moody, but the recovery is expected to level off soon.

* Steel. The nation's steel makers will see the real dollar value of their shipments climb about 18 percent this year, a less-rapid recovery than expected last December, according to analyst J. D. Darroch. He said the industry capacity to make steel has shrunk by 10 percent in the last few years and may shrink further. Industry employment is 270,000 today and probably will average no higher than 300,000 this year, the lowest since the 1930s.

* Construction equipment. The value of production will decline 8 percent this year--in part because of continuing recession in heavy construction and surface mining but mainly because of a continuing decline in exports because of the Third World debt crisis and a worldwide recession, according to analyst John Lien.

* Farm equipment. The depressed farm economy will cause a decline in shipments of 8 percent in the farm equipment industry, according to Lien. Most manufacturers of farm equipment also are major manufacturers of construction equipment, such as Caterpillar and International Harvester.