The nation's savings and loan industry earned a meager $200 million profit in the first three months of 1987, recovering from a dismal 1986 fourth quarter in which the industry lost $1.4 billion, the government reported yesterday.

The Federal Home Loan Bank Board said 79 percent of the nation's thrifts were profitable in the first quarter of 1987, up from 73 percent for the last three months of 1986. The profitable S&Ls recorded net income of $2.2 billion in the first quarter, the same as during the previous three months. But losses by unprofitable thrifts were down sharply, to $2.0 billion from a revised $3.6 billion in losses during the last quarter of 1986. The net income figures for profitable S&L's were in line with profits during all of 1986. But the loss figures reversed a trend of mounting losses by greater numbers of thrifts.

During the first three months of 1986, 19 percent of the nation's S&L's were unprofitable, losing $900 million. Those figures increased to 21 percent and $2.1 billion in the second quarter; 23 percent and $2.1 billion in the third quarter; and 27 percent and $3.6 billion in the last quarter.

The losses are concentrated in economically troubled farm and oil states. They have so drained the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp. that it is now keeping insolvent thrifts operating at a loss because it does not have the money needed to close them and pay off depositors