Suburbanities are still getting about half the special public works paychecks aimed at relieving unemployment in the District of Columbia, but officials insisted yesterday that the program should be judged a substantial success for the city and its residents.

Figures compiled by the D.C. Manpower Department showed that the federally supported $40-million program has provided 1,138 jobs since it went into effect in 1976, of which 558, or 49 percent, have gone to D.C. residents.

Of the 51 percent that went to others, 357, or 31 percent, went to Marylanders, and 213, or 19 percent, to Virginians. The remaining 10 jobs went to people from other states. Overall, 67 percent of the workers have been nonwhite.

The figures show about the same ratio of D.C. jobholders to suburbanites as manpower officials reported a year ago, when D.C. officials said they would try to push the proportion of jobs for city residents up to around 65 percent.

The money has flowed into 22 projects, including the remodelling of one floor of the District Building for City Council offices, the creation of a plaza at 7th and F streets NW, renovation of the Georgetown and Eastern markets ad improvements to city parks and public housing projects.

The public works program was authorized by Congress in 1976 over President Ford's veto and expanded last year as part of president Carter's economic stimulus package.

Comer S. Coppie, D.C. budget director, whose office is monitoring the program said the 49 percent hiring of D.C. residents should be regarded as a substantial achievement, even if the goal was higher.

Official figures show that only about 25 percent of regularly employed construction workers in D.C. are residents of the city, Coppie said. That figure has been doubled for workers under the public works program, he said.

Contracts are let to low bidders, regardless of whether their headquarters are in the city or suburbs, and federal rules do not permit workers to be disqualified because of where they live. However, the city has written provisions into contract specifications that are designed to channel unemployed city residents into job vacancies.

Sam D. Starobin, the city's general services director and a principal contracting officer, said Congress did not exempt the public works program from a requirement that union-scale wages be paid to all workers hired.

"This means that if a contractor is going to pay top wages, he is going to look for people with top skills, and these are usually union people who art not part of the city's hard-core unemployed," Starobin said.