A leading group of Democratic liberals put Jimmy Carter on notice yesterday that they will be looking for a new presidential candidate in 1980 unless his administration changes its ways.

In a resolution adopted at its annual convention, the Americans for Democratic Action said "sadly agrees with the judgment of a majority of Americans that so far this administration has failed to produce on its major promises."

If accused the Carter Administration of "playing to right-wing fears" in its foreign policy and to business interests in domestic policy.

The administration, it said, has attempted "to control inflation by limiting economic opportunity" and failed to act on social issues.

"Americans are being left without work; federal programs to save the cities have been proposed without sufficient resources; national health insurance has been postponed; and on welfare reform the administration has a plan, but no continuing commitment to pass it," the group said.

It praised Carter's efforts on behalf of the Panama Canal treaties, but attacked him for failing to trim the military budget and "feeding a hard-line mood of hostility" to arms control talks.

"By linking arms control to questionable African issues, the administration is risking SALT II for the copper of Zaire," it said.

Carter has always had an uneasy relationship with liberals in his party, and ADA leaders have been expressing dissatisfaction with what they consider a rightward drift in the administration for more than a year.

There was some movement at the ADA's annual convention to go beyond the language of the resolution, ADA national director Leon Shull said. "There was shades of a dump type movement" - a reference to 1968, when liberal opposition to the Vietnam war led to President Johnson's decision not to seek reelection.