Unemployment in the District of Columbia declined from 7.9 percent in January 1979 to 6.4 percent last January, D.C. Department of Labor Director William Ford said yesterday.

Ford said that while the total D.C. labor force shrank by 7,700 workers in that period, the actual number of jobs in the District increased by 9,500, or 1.6 percent. The entire metropolitan area showed a 2.3 percent increase in jobs.

Ford said there were 25,300 unemployed workers in the District in January 1979. This past January, there were 20,000. Ford said unemployment figures for the entire metropoitan area are not available.

According to statistics provided by Ford, the city's unemployment rate showed a steady decline last year with the exception of a jump last June caused by the addition of vacationing students to the work force.

The total D.C. work force decreased overall, from 319,200 in January 1979 to 311,500 last January.

Ford also released figures showing that the number of D.C. unemployment insurance claims decreased by 8.4 percent from January 1979 to January 1980, though the average unemployment benefits paid to workers increased by nearly 10 percent. The total amount of money paid in city unemployment benefits increased from $5.5 million to $5.7 million.