The U.S. economy entered its 58th consecutive month of growth yesterday as it neared the record for the longest peacetime expansion since 1854.

At the end of September the expansion, which began in November 1982, will tie the 58-month stretch of growth from March 1975 to January 1980, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the officially recognized arbiter of when recessions begin and end.

Adding peacetime as a qualifier throws out two longer runs of growth. The longest uninterrupted stretch ever was the 106 months of Vietnam War-influenced gains from February 1961 to December 1969. Second place belongs to the World War II era's 1938-1945 streak.

Many economists point out, however, that the growth has been uneven, with various parts of the economy and nation affected differently.

Donald Ratajczak, head of the Economic Forecasting Project at Georgia State University in Atlanta, said he sees little value in crowing over the current record when past surges have produced much greater economic growth.

A look at the gross national product supports his argument. After inflation, GNP grew 38.3 percent in the 1950s, 45.1 percent in the 1960s and 31.9 percent in the 1970s. The 1980s had shown 19 percent growth as of last June and probably won't end the decade higher than 25 percent