A newly constructed home in the Oakbridge housing development in Danville, California. - 

The U.S. Census Bureau this morning reported that housing starts - that's econ-speak for new home construction - fell about 1 percent last month, though it was up 34 percent from a year ago. Meanwhile, building permits for future homes were up about 5 percent from January to February.

That's good economic news, according to Juli Niemann, an analyst with Smith Moore and Company in St. Louis.

"The housing spring really has sprung," Niemann said. She attributed the positive outlook to good winter weather and an economy that "isn't getting worse." She also cited pent-up demand for housing around the country and a rise in permits for construction as bellweathers of an improving economy.

Prices on existing homes aren't expected to recover as quickly in some parts of the country, particularly the Midwest and Northeast. Niemann noted that those areas are likely to recover to pre-crash heights: "It's going to take a while to get there, but at least banks are going to start providing loans against them," she said.

Listen to the full interview in the player above.