The AFL-CIO's Executive Council yesterday took the first step in an effort that President Lane Kirkland hopes will unite labor behind a single presidential candidate in 1984 before the states hold primaries and caucuses.

The 35-member council voted unanimously to urge all of its unions not to make "premature endorsements" for the 1984 presidential election, pending development of a procedure by which the federation's 101 unions can agree to endorse one candidate.

Within the AFL-CIO hierarchy, Kirkland has stressed for weeks his view that the federation must forge a new, unified labor approach to presidential politics. He has expressed his belief that in 1980, labor unions worked against each other, with some endorsing Jimmy Carter and others endorsing Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.)

The results, according to Kirkland, are that labor minimized its chance to influence selection of the Democratic nominee and that labor leaders found themselves pressed to turn out rank-and-file support for Carter in the general election, while President Reagan received about half of the blue-collar vote.

Kirkland said he hopes the federation can decide in December, 1983, or January, 1984, to endorse a single candidate before the first caucus is held in Iowa and the first primary in New Hampshire.

"Rather than go off in different directions" as in the past, Kirkland said, the federation ought to "at least explore whether we can find a sufficient consensus to enable . . . [the AFL-CIO] to go into the primaries together."

Kirkland also read an AFL-CIO statement urging a reversal of what the group called "the tight-money policies endorsed by the president and imposed by the Federal Reserve Board."

The federation called on Reagan to use his authority under the Credit Control Act of 1969 to authorize the Federal Reserve to regulate credit extension and channel available credit toward lower rates for home building, farming and industrial production.

Asked whether he shared Reagan's view that there would be an economic recovery by late spring or early summer, Kirkland said, "There isn't much left of late spring."