Political appointees whose jobs, paychecks and ability to pay mortgages depend on President Carter's political health, are taking out a form of unemployment insurance these days. But less tactfully, some are looking for another line of work.

Many of the top-paid bosses are busy firing out resumes to prospective employers, according to the grapevine that draws much of its news nourishment from office copying machines.

Secretaries and staffers report -- often with some glee -- that bosses are busy updating resumes and job application forms, and making plenty of extra copies. In case.The "in case" is in case Carter loses the nomination and/or the November election.

To hear some staffers talk, Ronald Reagan and Edward Kennedy have replaced Iranian Foreign Minister Ghotbzadeh and the Ayatollah Khomeini as the chief nightmare figures of Washington's political community.

Some government executives who, until recently, have been preoccupied with affairs of state are now contacting old and new friends in the private sector. Their letters, notes and telephone calls -- according to some of the people who help write them or dial the numbers -- ask how the old (golf, tennis or jogging) game is going, how are the kids, and by the by, can you give me a job?

As surely as the locusts appear every 7 or 17 years, top level Washington suffers a paper explosion every 4 or 8 years as nervous political appointees contemplate life without a political father.

Some bosses who feel the need to feather their nests -- with additional resumes -- do it in the open. They have professionals on the staff write and update biographies to include current government titles, duties and responsibilities.

Other politically nervous appointees do it in the dark -- either for reasons of ethics or pride. That is, they do their photocopying after normal work hours so as not to upset the staff. After all, it is considered bad form to have the captain in stormy times go around wearing a life jacket, or to begin stashing food and blankets in a lifeboat aboard the ship of state.

Watch the copying machines as political appointees analyze the Pennsylvania primary results today.