Carvin M. Jefferson, 46, assistant director of the American Institute for Free Labor Development here, died of cardiac arrest Tuesday at a hospital in Raymond, Maine. A resident of Washington, he was stricken while on vacation.

In 1962, Mr. Jefferson became an accounting consultant with the institute, which was established by the AFL-CIO to promote trade unionism in South America and the Caribbean. After serving as chief accountant, he was appointed director of finance, budget and program planning in 1967. In 1976, he became one of the institute's two assistant directors.

From 1959 until joining the instittute, Mr. Jefferson worked for the African American Free Labor Institute here.

Mr. Jefferson was born in Danville, Va. He earned a bachelor's degree in business administtration from Howard University and did postgraduate work at American University here. He was a veteran of the Air Force.

During the 1950s, while living in New York City, he was active in the civil rights movement and in the Negro Actor's Guild.

Survivors include his wife, Suzanne, three sons, Carvin Jr., Curtis and Cameron, his mother, Corine A. J. Ford, two brothers, Michael Jefferson and Duane Ford, and two sisters, Arlene McMillian and Bonita Jefferson, all of Washington.