The monthly unemployment rate rose slightly in Maryland, but remained steady in Virginia in October, state officials announced yesterday.

In both cases, the states reported unemployment levels that were well below the national rate of 6.8 percent.

Maryland's rate increased to 4.4 percent, up two-tenths of a percentage point from 4.2 percent last September.

Virginia's October unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.3 percent for the third-consecutive month. The state last reported a three-month hold on unemployment levels in 1979, when the rate remained at 4.3 percent for consecutive reporting periods.

Holiday hiring in retail stores and increased employment in Maryland schools helped to keep the lid on unemployment in that state, according to officials at the Maryland Department of Employment and Training. New jobs in publishing, health services and local government also helped, the Maryland officials said.

During October, employment in Maryland increased by 7,330 people to a total of 2,189,921.

The Virginia jobless rate, though unchanged over the last three months, actually was up by a half a percentage point over the October rate for 1984. Virginia Unemployment Commission officials attributed the increase over the year-ago period to "the immigration of new workers attracted by Virginia's low unemployment."