WASHINGTON (AP) _ The federal budget deficit jumped by $41.8 billion in February as taxpayers filed for refunds.

The red ink figure compares with a $25.4 billion surplus in January, but it was still 5.1 percent below the $44 billion deficit in February 1997, the Treasury Department noted Friday.

For the first five months of the 1998 fiscal year, the deficit totaled $56 billion, 37.6 percent less than $89.8 billion accumulated during the same period of fiscal 1997.

The Clinton administration still is officially forecasting a $10 billion deficit for the year, compared with a 23-year low of $22 billion last year, whilre holding out the possibility of a surplus.

The Congressional Budget Office is predicting an $8 billion surplus, which would mark the federal government's first year in the black since 1969.

Robust economic growth and large stock market gains are being credited with pushing tax revenues up faster than spending. Revenues during the fiscal year to date have totaled $646.9 billion, up 10.2 percent from 1997. Spending during the period added up to $703 billion, up 3.9 percent.