William Hoffman, 72, a Labor Department official who retired in 1977 after 37 years service, died of cancer Sunday at Sibley Memorial Hospital.

Mr. Hoffman was director of the division of minimum wage and hour standards in the department's Office of Fair Labor Standards for about four years before retiring. Prior to that, he had been a branch chief in the wage and hour standards division for more than 10 years.

He began his career with Labor in 1940 as an economist and investigator in New York City. He also worked with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He transferred to Washington in 1948.

Mr. Hoffman was a recipient of the Labor Department's Distinquished Achievement Award in 1975 and its Distinguished Career Service Award a year later.

He was a resident of the Glen Echo section of Bethesda and had been president of the Glen Echo Heights Citizens Association for four years in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He aslo had served on the board of the Mohican Swim Club in Glen Echo.

Mr. Hoffman was a native of Chicago and a graduate of University of Illinois. He earned a master's degree in economics at the University of Chicago in 1930.

Survivors include his wife, the former Frances Drues of Bethesda; a son, Charles L., of Washington; two daughters, Jane Rasmussen of Bethesda, and Barbara Wallbrecher of West Berlin Germany, and two brothers, two sisters and six grandchildren.