Sen. Albert Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.) asked the Justice Department yesterday to investigate apparently false statements that President Reagan's nominee to head the Government Printing Office made on his personnel forms and why his personnel file has disappeared.

Gore said the file of the nominee, Ralph E. Kennickell Jr., "has mysteriously disappeared" from the GPO, making it difficult for the Senate Rules and Administration Committee to review his nomination.

Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (R-Md.), the panel's chairman, said Kennickell had also asked the GPO inspector general "to investigate the theft or unexplained disappearance of his personnel files." As a result, the committee delayed a vote on the nomination that had been scheduled for yesterday.

Kennickell has served as Public Printer, the top job at the GPO, since last December, when he received a recess appointment.

According to a report compiled by the committee's nonpartisan investigator, Gerald R. Gereau, Kennickell stated on four personnel forms that he earned between $52,000 and $55,000 during each of his last three years with the Kennickell Printing Co. of Savannah, Ga., before he joined the Treasury Department in 1981.

Investigators determined that Kennickell actually earned $20,929 during his last year with the firm and never more than about $37,000. Kennickell has submitted a W-2 tax form to the committee, certifying that he earned $20,929 in his final year.

At Treasury, Kennickell worked for six months at an annual salary of $51,864 as a consultant, a Gore aide said, and later earned $51,000, $54,000 and $58,566 a year in three different jobs with the Small Business Administration.

"I would like to know, from Justice, exactly what he reported as his salary when he first went to Treasury as a consultant," Gore said after the hearing. "Under applicable regulations, the salary he received as a consultant should be correlated with the salary he earned in the private sector."

At the committee's first hearing on his nomination last week, Kennickell said that each time he changed jobs he erred in reporting that he earned a higher salary. He said he had expected to receive a severance bonus from his father, who headed the family business.

"I am in error for not having changed that at a later date," Kennickell testified last week, claiming it was an "oversight and carelessness on my part, but certainly no malice of intent."

Gore replied, "I understand your explanation for the first time. I do not understand your explanation for the second time, the third time and the fourth time."

This week, however, Gore was armed with a report from the committee staff, which had interviewed Kennickell's elderly father in February and said he had no recollection of a bonus. But a letter, signed by Ralph E. Kennickell Sr., that a committee investigator said "turned up" in a White House file last December said that a bonus had been promised.

At the committee's request, Manuel Brito, then the inspector general of GPO, turned over a copy of Kennickell's personnel file in March. According to the Federal Times, Kennickell reassigned Brito shortly afterwards to a job in charge of physical security at the agency.

When Brito appealed the transfer to the Merit Systems Protection Board, it sought Kennickell's personnel file from the GPO, but was told it was missing.

"I think we need more information," Gore said, "before we can tell just what should be done."

The Rules Committee has not queried Kennickell about Brito's transfer, according to a Gore aide, because that would be under another panel's jurisdiction.

A committee aide said that because of the Fourth of July recess and a request by GPO Inspector General Joyce Blaylock for at least two weeks to conduct an investigation, the nomination could not be reviewed again until mid-July.