The national economy has become ''so vulnerable and sensitive to stress'' that a ''panic-driven depression'' is possible if further major business failures occur, AFL-CIO president Lane Kirkland told a political meeting of New York, New Jersey, and New England labor leaders in Hartford, Conn.
Monitor correspondent Ed Townsend reports that in his most pessimistic economic statement yet, Mr. Kirkland cited the failure of Braniff Airlines and warned that a number of major companies are facing serious financial crises. He said the ''collapse of a couple of major corporations or financial institutions could stimulate fear and panic and lead to the kinds of actions that could . . . lead us into a depression.''
The address, like others he has made before regional labor groups around the country, was political in intent, designed to muster labor opposition to President Reagan's economic policies, and -- looking ahead to the fall Congressional elections -- to those on Capitol Hill who support the President. But Kirkland said, ''it is not politics'' to warn about the possible ''disastrous'' consequences of a continued steady erosion of the economy.