The Census Bureau will begin furloughing its entire 5,900-member staff for a minimum of 10 days, probably starting in late February or early March. It also plans to dismiss up to 500 workers because of its money problems.

Under the proposal that Census officials will formally spell out in a few days, employes--including the 3,900 based at nearby Suitland, Md.--will be furloughed one day without pay every two weeks. Workers have been alerted that a second round of furloughs of up to 12 more days may be ordered if money problems persist.

Census is caught in a double dollar hammerlock. Like some other agencies, its budget--part of the Commerce Department money package--still has not been approved for the fiscal year that started last Oct. 1. Congress told many agencies to take an additional 4 percent cut this year, in addition to a 12 percent spending reduction already ordered by President Reagan.

Census is a labor-intensive agency. It spends 70 cents of every dollar on salaries. Many of its workers are skilled, hard-to-replace technicians, statisticians, computer experts and analysts. In addition to the congressional budget squeeze, Census gets a substantial portion of its revenue from other federal agencies that use its services. Many of those customers have stopped buying from the bureau because of their own belt tightening.

Bureau of the Mint is also planning to furlough 120 headquarters staffers here for five days beginning in mid-February. Employes will, in some cases, be allowed to pick which days they want to be furloughed provided all five days are taken before March 31.

Dozens of other federal agencies are planning similar furlough/RIF actions in the weeks ahead.