The federal government, which normally adds 1,500 new employes each workday, is expected to be hit with a tough hiring freeze shortly after Ronald Reagan is sworn in as presdient.

Insiders say the Reagan team has decided that the freeze action must be taken, partly to satisfy a major campaign promise and partly to symbolize to the nation that Uncle Sam will indulge in the belt-tightening Reagan will ask of labor and management in his inaugural address.

This column has learned that a draft of an executive order that would impose a hiring freeze has been prepared by the Office of Management and Budget, at the request of the Reagan transition team. OMB officials would not comment on its content. But sources in the Reagan camp say it probably will be issued within days of the inaugural, and probably will be a solid, but short, freeze. Although Reagan has promised to exempt the Defense Department from any cutbacks, it is possible DOD civilian hiring would be curtailed for a short time when and if the freeze comes. Defense accounts for about half the federal civilian workforce.

OMB bradd did say that the current partial freeze that President Carter imposed on the bureaucracy last March will continue until it is changed by President-elect Reagan. Idea is to keep agencies from going to a last-minute hiring binge in order to bring people on board before the anticipated Reagan freeze hits.

The Carter freeze allows most agencies to fill one of every two jobs that become vacant by retirement, resignation or death. The 1-for-2 freeze worked well most of last year. It produced a cut of about 22,000 full-time permanent U.S. positions. But in recent months agencies, particularly Defense, have stepped up hiring using a variety of devices to skirt the partial freeze.

When and if the new freeze hits it is expected to allow agencies to hire people who received "commitment letters" before the freeze was announced. That means if you get a solid jb offer, in writing, before the freeze hits you probably can still be hired.

So the forecast is for a short, but very tough, freeze due to begin on or about Jan. 20.