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Older workers still punch clock for many different reasons

By TIM GRANT
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

PITTSBURGH (AP, Sept. 22) — At 86 years old, Bill Priatko jump-starts every workday with a vigorous three-mile walk and 155 Marine-style pushups, getting energized for another five-hour shift working the soda fountain at Kennywood Park.

“I don’t call it work,” he said. “Really, it’s like a hobby. I come over here every morning, five days a week, Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Just enough for me to enjoy it. And I can’t wait to see the kids and work with them.”

He starts the shift with a ritual that Rodgers and Hammerstein might appreciate and that his young co-workers seem to enjoy. “I sing this little ditty to them: ‘Oh, what a beautiful morning. Oh, what a beautiful day. I’ve got a wonderful feeling. Everything’s going our way.'”

And they all go “Yeah!”

For Priatko, a former Pittsburgh Steeler, the job at the West Mifflin amusement park is a retirement gig. He is part of a fast-growing segment of workers who remain in the workplace well past the traditional retirement age.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for those ages 55 and over was 3.1 percent as of July. By comparison, the rate for that segment of workers hit a record high 7.2 percent in December 2009 during the Great Recession.

In July, the unemployment rate for older workers was actually lower than 3.9 percent overall rate for the entire U.S. population.

There are different factors at work in that trend.

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PA Workforce Development Association