The nationally circulated newspaper USA Today lost about $233 million since it was launched by Gannett Co. in September 1982, according to a company statement.

Total investment in the 1.55-million circulation newspaper "is less than" the $305 million that Gannett paid for the 323,000-circulation Louisville Courier-Journal in 1986, the company statement said earlier this week.

Last month, Gannett declined to confirm speculation that the paper's cumulative operating losses had exceeded $300 million but promised to disclose details on the investment before USA Today's fifth anniversary on Sept. 15.

{A book scheduled for publication in mid-September puts operating losses for the newspaper at $457 million by the end of 1986, the New York Times reported yesterday. According to a manuscript of "The Making of McPaper: The Inside Story of USA Today," by Peter Prichard, managing editor of cover articles for the newspaper, Gannett incurred an additional $208 million in capital costs for printing presses and other equipment -- much of that spent on USA today, the Times reported.}

USA Today reported its first monthly profit in May, earning $1.09 million.

It had reported April losses of $899,999. The profitable month occurred six months ahead of schedule, Gannett said at the time.

Most of the loss for USA Today, based in Rosslyn, occurred in the "development years" of 1983-85, the Gannett statement said.

It said the paper is running better than expected this year.

"The business plan projected 1987 losses in the $34 million range. We now expect them to be less than one-third that amount," the Gannett statement said.

"The $233 million in operating losses covers the prepublication and start-up losses as well as those incurred during nearly five years of publication. In addition to the operating losses, which have been expensed by Gannett on a period-by-period basis, there have been certain capital expenditures for USA Today."

The company spent $30.3 million for 134,981 newspaper boxes from which USA Today is sold, the statement said.

Expenditures for presses and other production equipment was not allocated to USA Today because the equipment also is used to print other Gannett newspapers, the announcement said.

USA Today also borrows staff from other Gannett newspapers while those salaries go out of the individual newspaper's budget. Last month, Gannett Chairman Allen H. Neuharth said there were about 30 "loaners" on the USA Today editorial staff of 250.

USA Today is one of 90 daily newspapers published by Gannett, which also publishes 39 nondailies and USA Weekend, a newspaper magazine supplement. Gannett operates eight television stations and 16 radio stations and owns a large outdoor advertising company.

Despite the costs of USA Today, Gannett has maintained a string of consecutive quarters of earnings gains.