President Obama on Friday called a new jobs report that shows an uptick in hiring -- but also in the unemployment rate -- a step in the right direction for a sluggish U.S. economy.

"We've now created 4.5 million new jobs over the last 29 months," Obama said before pressing Congress for an extension of middle-class tax cuts. "We've still got too many folks out there looking for work. We knew this was going to take some time."

Private employers added 163,000 jobs in July, the highest increase in five months. However, the unemployment rate jumped to 8.3 percent from 8.2 percent the month before.

Republicans were quick to point out that Obama failed to meet his own economic goals.

"We've now gone 42 consecutive months with the unemployment rate above 8 percent," presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said in a statement, calling persistent joblessness a "hammer-blow" to middle-class Americans.

No U.S. president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has been re-elected with unemployment above 8 percent.

Despite the mixed jobs report, Obama attacked Republicans for advocating policies, including across-the-board tax cuts, that he said would undermine fragile economic gains.

"We're not going to get where we need to be if we go back to the policies that created this mess in the first place," he said.

The report marked the 29th straight month of private-sector job growth.

Obama pivoted from the jobs report to call on Congress to extend tax cuts for families making less than $250,000 annually, saying that a return to the tax rates for wealthier Americans enacted under President Bill Clinton would represent a fairer approach to curtailing a record federal deficit.

"Let's keep taxes low for 98 percent of Americans," he said. "Let's keep taxes low for 97 percent of small-business owners."