Albertson's Inc. said earnings for its third fiscal quarter increased 20.7 percent to $55.8 million or 42 cents per share compared to $46.3 million, or 35 cents per share for the period last year.

For the 39-week period ended Nov. 1, earnings were $159.9 million, an increase of 17.3 percent over the $136.3 million for the same period last year. Earnings per share were $1.20 compared to $1.02 last year.The company also announced record sales of $2.02 billion for the 13-week third fiscal quarter, an increase of 9.7 percent over the $1.84 billion for the same quarter last year. During the period identical store sales increased 4.4 percent.

Sales for the 39 week period were $6.11 billion, an increase of 11.4 percent over the $5.48 billion for the same period last year.

"We are pleased with the third quarter results," said Warren E. McCain, chairman. "Our gross margin increased due to a strengthening of the company's retail gross margin and contributions from our new distribution centers. We will continue to invest in building our identical store sales and continue with the cost containment programs we have in place for all our expense categories."

During the quarter, five new stores were opened for a total of 19 new stores for the nine months. Eighteen stores have been closed during the first nine months, a spokesman said, "as the company continues its program of weeding out small stores and unproductive stores." The company anticipates opening 33 stores during 1990.

Remodeling projects were completed on seven stores during the quarter for a total of 23 completed for the nine months. For the year, the company expects to complete 38 remodels.

At Nov. 1, the company operated 524 stores in 16 Western and Southern states.