Imagine Michigan residents being barred from jobs in the auto industry. Or Georgians told they couldn't grow, pick or sell peanuts.

These two examples typify the situation that Washington area job hunters face when they apply for work with this city's major industry, the U.S. government.

At least one of every seven federal jobs here in Government Town is closed to individuals if they hail from the District, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania or Virginia. There are seven other states whose residents, under an old law, have a tough time getting on the federal payroll here.

The old law requires that more than 50,000 federal jobs here be given to residents of various states on the basis of each state's population. The remaining 300,000 civil service positions here are outside the quota system.

Under the apportionment system, New Mexico residents (for example) are entitled to 260 of the "quota" jobs here. Only about 85 of them are filled. North Caroline, on the other hand, is over its quota. There are 1,492 registered Tarheels in quota positions, although legally that state's residents should have only 1,301 jobs.

When the law was passed, it seemed like a good idea. The theory was that people from all states should have a crack at federal positions here. But that was before the population became mobile. Now the confusing apportionment law is a drag on hiring, and really doesn't help since many states have been behind in their quotas for years without any apparent problem. The law may be abolished this year.

Beginning today, Rep. William Clay's (D-Mo.) Civil Service Subcommittee will hold hearings on legislation that would eliminate the federal-job-by-state quota systm.

Rep. Herbert Harris (D-Va.) is sponsor of the bill, which has the strong backing of other area legislators whose constitutents often are told that their qualifications are good, but that they come from the wrong place. Other states that are "over-quota" in the reserved federal job pool include Iowa, Kansas, North and South Dakota, Vermont, Maine and Nebraska.

Both the Civil Service Commission and the General Accounting Office are expected to testify in favor of scrapping the job-quota law.

Meanwhile, although all men (and women) may have been created equal, it is better in this town to be a job hunter with a Texas, Oregon or American Samoa background than to be a localproduct.