Washington-area federal agencies that have laid off just over 1,200 workers so far this year -- nearly one-third of all the job cuts that have taken place in government -- expect the number of people hit by RIFs (reductions in force) to double or triple between now and Jan. 1.

People looking into the crystal ball to see how many federal workers will be fired this year, next year and in 1983 are confused. One reason: Nobody is sure, even now, how many federal workers Uncle Sam has already fired for economy reasons as of Oct. 1, when the government's new fiscal year began.

Figures from the Federal Government Service Task Force -- based on reports from federal agencies -- say that 1,209 local workers were RIFed during the just- completed fiscal year. FGSTF, headed by Rep. Michael Barnes (D-Md.), is a bipartisan congressional unit monitoring the impact of budget cuts on federal workers here and around the country.

Figures from the Office of Personnel Management -- based on reports from the same federal agencies reporting to the Barnes group -- say that 1,236 federal workers here were fired as of Oct. 1.

The differences between the Barnes group (1,209 actually fired) vs. the OPM data (1,236) isn't much, unless you happen to be one of the people who make up those statistics. For them it is a disaster. They lost their jobs.

The problem is future forecasts. Those figures, which are bad enough if you are a fed with job jitters, are guess estimates based on current agency plans. Worse, for feds, they do not include RIFs that might have to take place because of lower job ceilings the administration will impose on most nondefense agencies, nor do they include the 12 percent spending cut that the administration has ordered for nondefense agencies during this fiscal year.

Estimates are that the two actions-- if Congress goes along with them -- could wipe out 150,000 federal jobs, that is 75,000 through lower ceilings over the next two years and another 75,000 if agencies take the 12 percent cut out of personnel costs.

Based on data given the Task Force, federal agencies nationwide are planning to RIF 10,589 by the end of this year. OPM, using the same data from essentially the same sources, has a RIF projection for the same period of 9,086.

If metro Washington -- which has taken 31 percent of the job cuts so far although it has less than 13 percent of the federal population -- takes the same percentage of the upcoming RIFs, there will be a lot of unhappy, and unemployed people around the Christmas season. And the worst news -- additional cuts because of budget and ceiling reductions -- may be yet to come.

Some agencies are considering furloughs to cut costs, and reduce the number of RIFs facing them. Last Wednesday we asked people to write in, card or letter, and vote "yes" if they would voluntarily take a day or two furlough (without pay) to save jobs, or vote "no" if they would not. (Bear in mind that agencies can furlough people with or without their permission.) We promised to pass on the results of our poll -- to you and your agency head -- soon as possible. The votes are coming in. Joan Johnson, with a little help from me, is counting them right now. We hope to give you partial results in a couple of days.