The employment outlook for the country in 1981 appears somewhat brighter than last year to private forecasters, with all of the improvement coming during the second half. While remaining stable, the Washington area can be expected to fare only slightly better than the nation as a whole.

As usual prospects for hiring in technical and professional fields seem the most propitious, whereas those for manufacturing jobs are more closely linked to the vagaries of the economy and whether it takes another dip downward.

One of the most optimistic forecasters is Michael K. Evans, who heads Evans Economics Inc. of Washington.

He predictsa employment growth will be relatively strong throughout the year, showing an increase of one million jobs in the first half and double that number in the second. Unemployment, he feels, will peak at 7 1/2 percent during the first quarter, then descend to 7 percent by yearend. He looks for slight increase in the trade, services, and government sectors, but these will be offset by small declines in manufacturing and construction.

Evans' buoyancy is based on his belief that interest rates will decline to 13 percent by mid year but that credit controls will not be reimposed. And while inflation will show no improvement, he believes the country has learned to live with it. Consequently he predicts real growth of 2 1/2 percent this year.

A less sanguine outlook is presented by the Bureau of National Affairs, a private publisher of information services located in Washington. Of the 455 employers responding to its quarterly survey, 23 percent said they planned to increase their production work forces during this quarter, a gain of 7 percentage points over those who reported hiring plans for the last three months of 1980.

There was also more hiring planned at the start of this year in the technical and professional field, as well as in the clerical fields, than there was in the preceding quarter. However, compared on an annual basis, the outlook for production workers, was unchanged from the beginning of 1980 whereas plans to hire clerical and technical workers declined 2 percentage points from the previous year.

BNA found that although 42 percent of the manufacturing firms answering its survey had laid off production workers, three out of 10 planned to hire additional workers during the quarter. It also found that small employers with fewer than 1,000 workers anticipated stepped-up hiring more than did large firms. At the same time big companies are still having difficulty finding qualified applicants for some jobs.

The demand for production workers to fill existing jobs is greatest in the South and West while office/clerical and technical/professional employes are most needed in the West, according to BNA.

Manpower, Inc., says the 8,000 public and private companies in 250 cities polled for its quarterly survey foresee a stable but sluggish employment pattern at the start of 1981 with no net change in either living or layoffs. Those sectors of the workface that can expect an increase in hiring include manufacturing of both durable and non-durable goods, construction, finance, insurance and real estate sales.

Things will be slower in the public administration sector, education, mining, transportation, public utilities, and wholesale and retail trade, although this last category is normally down after the Christmas season. Hiring appears to be stabilizing in the service industries, in which Manpower, Inc., notes, it had reached a five-year low.

Across the country, the South and West can be expected to hire at a rate above the national average, the Northeast in line with that average, and the Midwest well below. The outlook for metropolitan Washington is for a stable but slightly less optimistic employment picture a year ago. Yet, the picture is quite diverse when examined more closely.

In the city itself the number of employers planning to hire additional workers this quarter dropped from 23 percent to 14 percent, while the number of those who said they were unsure of their plans rose from 2 percent to 15 percent. Two-thirds, however, plan to change. The situation in Virginia was termed depressed with hiring figures below both national and regional levels. "Job opportunities are reported only in the wholesale and retail trade sector," said Manpower, Inc.

In Montgomery County 31 percent of the employers said they were hiring. The most opportunities are to be found in the service sector, the wholesale and retail trade, and in finance, insurance and real estate. In Prince George's County, 17 percent of the employers plan to increase their staffs, but 19 percent contemplate layoffs. Improvements are predicted in the manufacture of non-durable goods, whereas there will be fewer jobs in construction, durable goods manufacturing and the services sectors.

Specialized forecasts of opportunities for executives and new college graduates are somewhat more favorable than for the overall job market. Russell Reynolds Associates, an international executive recruiting firm, surveyed 1,300 chief executives of the 1,000 largest U.S. industrial firms. The number of those planning to hire more senior managers at $50,000 or above rose from 20 percent last year to 28 percent. At the same time the percentage of those expecting to hire fewer senior executives in 1981 remained at 31 percent.

Demand is strongest for executives with backgrounds in information systems and data processing, the firm reported. The biggest change appears to be in the numbers of executives being hired for corporate planning and development. Almost a quarter of the firms reported looking for planners, compared to just 13 percent a year ago. "Whereas relatively few corporations understood in the early 1970s how corporate strategists could contribute to the company's operations and overall direction, today these people have the ear of top management," said Reynolds.

Finally, college requirement will be more selective this year, according to Michigan State's director of placement, John D. Shingleton, who conducts an annual survey.The class of 1981 will feel the impact of the recession a little more than the class of '80 because employment quotas for 1980 were already set before the recession hit. This will take the form of more modest increases in starting salaries this year, Shingleton said.

Nine graduates in 10 will have landed a job before they get their diplomas. The brightest outlook is again for engineering graduates with constant demand for graduates majoring in business. Liberal arts graduates will continue to experience heavy competition for jobs unless they have advanced degrees in fields such as law or business. And there is still an over-supply of teachers for the number of jobs available.

Average starting salaries will go up 5 percent to 6 percent over last year for all degree levels, according to Shingleton. The average 1981 graduate will have an annual salary in excess of $15,000. The highest starting salary in the survey, $20,650, can be expected by chemical engineers, and the lowest, $12,672, by education majors.