Bank failures in the oil states of Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana pushed closings nationwide to a post-Depression record in 1987, and a top federal regulator said yesterday he expects at best only a small improvement this year.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) reported 184 bank closings among the 14,000 commercial banks it insured last year. More than half -- 95 -- were in three states plagued by the moribund oil market. Fifty banks closed in Texas, 31 in Oklahoma and 14 in Louisiana.

An additional 19 banks required assistance from the insurance fund to stay afloat. Fifteen of those were in the three oil states.

"Our current hope would be that next year would be a little better in terms of bank failures," FDIC Chairman L. William Seidman said.

Early last fall, Seidman said he expected bank failures to decline to about 150 in 1988, but he said yesterday in an interview after an FDIC board meeting that the recent drop in oil prices has helped to dampen his previous optimism.

Seidman said banks so far have suffered no great harm from the Oct. 19 stock market collapse. But "It does create uncertainty," he added.

"In those areas already having economic problems, {any slowdown caused by the collapse} could make it worse," he said.

There has been a six-year surge of bank collapses. The 184 failures last year compared with 138 in 1986, 120 in 1985, 79 in 1984, 48 in 1983 and 42 in 1982. The figures are still small when compared with the early 1930s, when deposits were not insured and rumors could spark runs by people frantic to withdraw their money. Four thousand banks collapsed in 1933, the year before the FDIC was created. From 1934 to 1939 the average was 67 failures a year, little more than one-third of the current rate.

Among the 3,200 savings institutions insured by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, 17 closed in 1987 and 26 needed help to entice a stronger institution into taking them over. That compared with 21 thrift closings and 22 assisted mergers in 1986.

More thrifts were in trouble than those numbers indicate. Until funds from a congressionally authorized recapitalization began flowing in October, bank board activity had been slowed by a cash shortage at the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Fund.