The nation's shaky stock market has sent ripples of concern and anxiety through Washington area governments, but analysts offered reassuring words yesterday on the stability of their employes' pensions.

In Maryland, officials were celebrating their decision this month to transfer more than $2 billion in retirement funds out of the stock market. In Virginia, officials said that state's giant $6.5 billion Supplemental Retirement System, which covers most state and local government employes such as teachers, easily could withstand the paper loss of about 5 percent.

And in the District, officials noted that all pensions are either tied to the federal retirement system or paid through general operating revenue that is not dependent on the stock market. A separate retirement fund for teachers, firefighters, police and judges with assets of about $1 billion won't begin making payments until the year 2004.

Local governments in the Washington suburbs suffered varying losses that have no immediate effect on pensions.

"We're long-term investors," said Beverly Scott, assistant personnel director for Fairfax County. She said the county's largest pension plan, which covers about 12,600 workers, lost about 20 percent of its paper value. "We're not really upset," said Scott, who said the drop-off may prevent the county from improving benefits anytime soon but would not require any cuts.

"It's a hard thing to put in perspective," said Philip Dearborn, an analyst of local governments and businesses for the Greater Washington Research Center. Dearborn noted that investment portfolios may have suffered major drops but must be compared with major increases reported since January. "I don't think anyone assumed {that constant} rate of growth."

Local, state and federal government jobs account for 28 percent of the work force in the Washington area. Dearborn and others noted that government employment has been considered a rock of stability for the local economy and that the certainty of pensions is one factor in such employment.

In Virginia suburban areas, officials reported mixed reactions.

About 1,000 part-time school employes in Prince William County who do not qualify for the state retirement system participate in a school-sponsored plan that is administered by four investment companies, said John G. Colson, director of finance for Prince William schools.

Colson said it is difficult to gauge the effect of the stock market drop on these pension funds because the part-time employes can choose investments for their retirement funds ranging from stocks to safer money market accounts.

About half of Arlington's $300 million employe pension fund was invested in the stock market as of last week, said Irwin M. Mazin, the fund's administrator. Mazin estimated that the fund may have lost 15 percent because of the drop in stock prices.

About 4,500 county and school employes and 1,900 retirees participate in the retirement system.

The drop in prices, while a setback, was "not devastating," said Mazin. Since 1982 the fund has risen an average of 26 percent a year. To be financially sound, the fund needed about a return of about 8 percent.

In Falls Church, Finance Director Halsey T. Green III said the stock market drop would have little effect on the city's $14.5 million retirement fund covering about 200 employes. Only about 12 percent of the fund was invested in stocks as of last year, said Green.

Pension fund officials in Maryland also chose to take the long view of events, saying their investments would withstand the test of time.

Workers covered by the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System could take some comfort from the action of trustees who sold $2.3 billion of common stocks and bought about $4 billion in high-grade bonds this month.

"We still hold $2.7 billion worth of common stock. We only sold half," said Ben Shavers, executive director of the state system. "We're sad about the other half. But we can take a pretty long view. We're not market timers."

The state pension plan covers 45,000 retired and 160,000 working employes, including state workers, public school teachers and county employes in all but Montgomery, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties.

Herb Dyer, executive director of the Montgomery County employe pension fund, said only 22 percent is invested in the market, mostly through Aetna Insurance Co. The plan covers 18,000 retired and 6,000 active employes.

"We can absorb these fluctuations better than somebody who needs money now to buy a car or next year to buy a house," Dyer said. "Our horizon line is longer than 10 years. Are we worried about our stocks at the end of 10 years? No."

Mike Valle, benefits coordinator for Anne Arundel County's 3,000 employes, whose pension funds are managed by Aetna and Connecticut General, said he remains "optimistic. At this point, we're not pushing the panic button. We have a well-diversified mix of investments."

In the private sector, joint union-management pension funds also are regulated by federal laws that restrict speculative investments. The laws require actuaries to take into account factors other than market value when determining a pension funds assets at the end of the year.

"If the market comes back, there will be no impact," said an official of the Martin E. Segal Co., financial consultant to about 30 local unions. "We don't get hung up on short-term fluctuations. It's way too early to say what is the effect."