Federal agencies bracing for major budget cuts aren't planning layoffs, according to an informal survey conducted by the Federal Government Services Task Force.

That happy outlook, if it holds up, should cheer federal workers who watched a series of disruptive, career-shattering reductions-in-force in the early 1980s that were triggered by budget cutting options that were less serious than the ones the government now faces. During those RIFs thousands were fired, demoted or transferred in an exercise that later proved to be costly to the taxpayers and damaging to the morale of the work force.

The task force acts as the congressional civil service caucus. Its spot check of major agency personnel and budget offices shows that RIFs aren't in the cards, even if agencies must make major cuts mandated by the deficit reduction law. Those automatic cuts will be required if the White House and Congress cannot agree on a specific budget plan in a few weeks. The no-RIF forecast is confirmed by a privately published newsletter that tracks federal hiring-firing trends for clients that include federal agencies and job hunters.

Instead of the RIFs that sent shock waves through the civil service in the early '80s, agencies now say, belt- tightening efforts will center on things such as slowing or freezing promotions, travel and training cuts, hiring freezes, and short-term furloughs of workers during the current fiscal year.

The task force RIF survey was taken Friday and Monday. Agencies indicated they will wait until mid-December, when Congress and the White House must come up with a budget cutting plan, to decide where and how to make cuts.

The apparent decision not to lay off workers is motivated more by financial than humanitarian reasons. The experience of the RIFs shows that the firings cost agencies more in the short run than they saved. That's because workers who have been fired are entitled to severance pay, pay for unused annual leave and unemployment compensation benefits, all paid by their agencies. In the current budget cutting exercise, agencies must come up with immediate savings.

The task force survey was ordered Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Norman Dicks (D-Wash.) and Vic Fazio (D-Calif.). The no-RIF finding reinforces a report by Federal Career Insights, a privately published newsletter that watches the government job market. The newsletter has a regular feature called the FEAR Index (for Federal Employment Activity Report) that reports on agency layoff plans. Agencies surveyed included major units of Army, Navy, Air Force and Defense, as well as three independent agencies. None said it expected RIFs, and a few said that hiring might pick up for engineers, some scientists and people in the always-short-supply clerical fields. Retiree Meetings

The Arlington chapter of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees will have its 40th birthday party and holiday luncheon Dec. 9 at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Little Falls Road. Call 671-5733.

NARFE's Silver Spring chapter will have its Dec. 8 holiday party at the Langley Park Hot Shoppes. Call 681-7269.

NARFE's White Oak Chapter meets Dec. 10 in Langley Park. Call Jerry Morris at 622-2552.