Contrary to the belief that civil servants have a barnacle-like, life-time attachment to the Ship of State, federal employment is not 100 percent "fireproof." Government workers can and do get canned -- and they don't have to slug the boss to do it.

Nearly 4,000 new, former federal employes went on unemployment insurance during the last week in January.The number of exgovernment workers now drawing unemployment insurance benefits is 48,000 and climbing.

Nationwide, the Labor Department reports that 41 million persons were receiving unemployment insurance during the week ending January 28, that is an increase of 173,800 in a one week period.

In the District of Columbia, there were 11.561 person drawing unemployment during the last week in January and 1,493 of them had worked for the government. All lost their job because of reorganization, charge of function or layoffs. None of those eligible for unemployment were fired, according tothe government.

In Maryland for the last week of January there were 693 federal employes drawing unemployment andin Virginia there were 275. Unemployment benefits in the District are among the best in the nation, ranging from $13 to $160 a week for up to 34 weeks. In Maryland and Virginia benefits generally run for a maximum of 26 weeks, ranging from $10 and $89 in Maryland, and from $28 to $110 weekly in Virginia.

California, which has many Defense installations, led the nation in federal workers drawing unemployment insurance benefits with 4,727. Pennsylvania was next with 3,222, then New York, 2,825; Tennessee, 2,445; Texas, 2,150; Kentucky, 2,027; New Jersey, 2,000 and Illinois, 1,555.

Most of the federal unemployment is among blue-collar workers formerly with Defence agencies, but the number of white collar civil servants who are losing jobs through no fault of their own is growing.

Federal officials say it is possible that some ex-government workers are misusing the system, taking what they know to be temporary jobs and then applying (and qualifying for) unemployment insurance when the jobs end. However, they don't believe that number is significant.

Unemployment within the federal sector is expected to grow, especially if government agencies use loopholes that are available in the presidential directive that says nobody can be fired, demoted or lose pay because of reorganization. That order does permit lay-offs in base closings and when an agency changes its mission or loses funds.

Some federal agencies -- Defense is a case in point -- have reorganized people out of jobs but called the changes something else. That means the next stop for those workers is the local unemployment office, instead of transfers or retraining as promised by the president in reorganiztion cases.

People in the auto industry, for example, would consider the federal unemployment rate good. With 2.6 million government workers, a total of 48,4000 unemployed isn't bad. Unless, of course, you happen to be one of the 48,400.

It is worth noting, in this era of taxpayer revolt against "bloated bureaucracy", that it is possible to fire government workers. Between 13,000 and 19,000 were fired "for cause" last year. That doesn't include the number who left before they were fired, or people who feel they were driven out of government.

For federal and postal employes who lose jobs through no fault of their own, the change simply means getting a different -- and smaller -- government check. It is something the "lean and efficient" government planners at the White House might they want to find meaningful work for people already on the federal payroll, or to "reorganize" them into the unemployment line. The money all comes out of the same pocket.