New U.S. housing starts unexpectedly rebounded in February, surging 22.2 percent, according to data on Tuesday that provided a rare dose of good news for the recession-hit economy and fractured housing market.

That was also the first increase since April last year, when they advanced by 1.6 percent. January's housing starts were revised to a rate of 477,000, the department said.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected an annual rate of 450,000 units for February.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani, Editing by Andrea Ricci)