WASHINGTON (AP) _ A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the dismissal of a libel suit brought, in Washington, by a Labor Department attorney against the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader.

A three-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals here ruled that U.S. District Judge Stanley S. Harris correctly threw out the suit brought by Frederick W. Moncrief because the judge lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.

Moncrief, an attorney employed by the Labor Department's solicitor's office, brought the libel suit in May 24, 1984, after the newspaper published an article by one of its Washington reporters on his attempts to obtain a job as an administrative law judge.

Moncrief said the article contained a statement about him that was false, defamatory and malicious.

The trial judge ruled that the District of Columbia's so-called ''long-arm statute'' did not cover the Herald-Leader because the ''act'' - the printing and mailing of the newspaper - causing the alleged injury occurred outside the District.

The appeals court, in an opinion written by Judge Robert H. Bork, said, ''We think that conclusion correct and, therefore, affirm the judgment of the district court dismissing the action for lack of personal jurisdiction.''