A federal appeals court yesterday upheld the formula used by the Labor Department in funding job training for seasonal workers, even though it shifts money away from states with the largest migrant populations.

In a unanimous opinion, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, said the department's formula is "reasonably consistent" with guidelines set by Congress when it passed the Job Training Partnership Act.

The California Human Development Corp. and several other nonprofit organizations that run migrant programs filed suit after their share of $57 million in job-training money was cut in fiscal 1984.

Under the formula, California's percentage of funds dropped from 21.8 to 8.8 percent and New York's from 2.7 to 2.5, while Kentucky's increased from 1.2 to 3.3 percent and Iowa's from 1.9 to 4.1.

The shift occurred when the department decided to use 1980 census figures rather than Social Security statistics for determining funding levels.

In upholding the formula, Senior Circuit Judge David L. Bazelon said neither set of data is a good indication of the number of seasonal farm workers in America.

"Given the uncertainty surrounding these statistics, as well as the promised ongoing review of the data base by the Department of Labor, we cannot find the department's actions unreasonable," the court said.